Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hand Me Downs Insight

I've been thinking a bit about the effects of the environment and memory on the mind. Phylicia Rashad says in a letter to herself at 21 (Omagazine, April 2006), "Everything you do, every thought you have, every word you say creates a memory that you will hold in your body." This is very powerful and shows deep self-reflection.

Those things also create memories in your mind. And also every word or action others have had can also create memories, memories that repeat in your mind. I understand why parents wish to shelter their children from swear words and mean debates, politics and images of violence. Children absorb things like a sponge, it's been said.

At this time in my life I have often thought about those repetitive thoughts that sometimes come to the surface. I wonder, "Good lord, where did that come from? Where did that mean thought first appear?" The fact is we may never know where we first heard an insult or saw a mean action. But we absorbed it and now it repeats.

For many years I had struggled with subduing mean-spirited memories, the impulse to go quickly toward anger, pride, or self-righteous indignation. But I found that the more I tried to stop them, the more clever and glee my ego got at making them resurface, and there I would be again, grasping those uncomfortable thoughts and crying in dismay, "Oh stop this in my head!"

It is amusing, in fact. Over time I have learned that part of the problem is actually the grasping or the judgement of those thoughts. When, in truth, they should not be paid any mind at all. Thicht Naht Hahn speaks of how we seem to poke at the painful places. When we are at the doctor, we are asked what hurts. But we should be thinking on what is all right in our lives. To get perspective.

Whose hand me down was the first insult? Whose hand me down was the first curse of anger? I will never know. But even as those things resurface in the mind, there is a choice to be made. One could reenact them, insult someone, and the viscious cycle continues and is passed on to another. One could grasp the thought and feel guilt and dread that it is there--but there is no progress in this, for the thought will again resurface just the same. Or one could let it pass as water over the body. Without judgement of it, without empowering the ego. Observe it distantly, as if to say, "Oh, there it is, there it goes." And the calm remains. It cannot harm you any longer. It cannot hurt you or others for you have let it go. And you are on to better moments of the day, in the moment. At peace.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Spooky Cobwebs of the Mind

The mind has been compared to an attic that stores all our memories. Often times we think about attics as dark places, with a shuttered window and dust and mice. If we do not clear the attic on a steady basis, dust can collect and cobwebs will form over the entire length and height of it.

Wandering through the attic of our minds, memories appear as cobwebs. As we pass through them they cling to us, making us uncomfortable. Attaching to our arms, our legs and our hair. Worries of misunderstandings, past thoughts of mistakes, silly things we did at a younger age, or fears about past debts or actions plague us as those cobwebs cling. We wander and cry in dismay, "Oh why did I say that to him that day," or "Oh, what was I THINKING?" or upon seeing some haunt as strange as a spider we utter just plain, "Yuck!". Covered in cobwebs.

In truth, cobwebs are just cobwebs. They are what they are. It is their nature to be sticky. It is our wandering through them that make them cling to us. It is our grasping that gets us covered up in them, these memories. Indeed as much as a cobweb is icky, it is our judgment of it that makes it so, and our memories need not be uncomfortable to us if we set aside our need to make an assessment of them.

Even in our attic we can find that middle path, where the window is unshuttered and brings in sunlight and fresh air; where the cobwebs glisten with mutlicolored opal-essence; where the dust glitters like falling stars into our open palms. Or where the attic is completely empty and spacious. Vast and free.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In the Middle of Nothing

I've observed that one way to peace is to let judgement fall away. In my life I've read many books. Their advice, instructions or suggestions have come together recently in a manner that I might describe as offering keys. Keys that unlock pieces to nothing. And when it happens, I hover there in peace.

I am a novice to this and, amazed, I observe how quickly it happens now. Not for long but it happens. I'm a newcomer still after twenty plus years of reading and listening and moving in it -- and I might add that my years are nearing the double of twenty. I don't know much. I don't have all the answers. I am limited. Ha ha! And even my need to write down such things and define who I am or am not reveals how I yet cling in everyday life to judgements. And see how language and vocabulary are what they are!? Foolishness to even write down the little I know or perhaps don't know. Truly it changes as soon as a name is put to it and it is lost to be found again when words fall away.

That impulse to define, oh, how quick it is! And already I am two steps behind myself. The ego wants to know it all and own it and, as Osho says, the mind is clever. The ego will grab it and cry, "Aha! How wonderful this is. How lovely. What a prize, what bliss. Look at me observing what I am doing right now." And it falls away. And the ego will create rituals to find it again, thinking, "Well, I did this, and then I did that, and I think it was easier when I was walking by a lake. Oh, I must find a tree for the moment to come again!" And at that point, so far away from the center, one might as well go home and watch tv.

But when the ego is quiet, the keys come together and unlock a little bit of nothing. Hovering in the middle. Poised. Hovering. Between breaths. Between discernments. Between extremes. Between impulses toward judgement and paths to anger or joy. I fall away.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Samsara and My Dog

Throughout the day, I watch my dog. I observe him as he goes through his motions. When he wants outside, I let him out. When he is hungry, I feed him. When he needs a scrtach, I itch his back and under his cute, floppy ears. I throw his ball and give him lots of love.

Our walks include two phases. The first part of the walk I let him run on the leash and do "his thing" sniffing and marking and rolling in the grass. The second part is his training. I fasten his work backpack around him and give him orders like heel and sit. After his good work, I reward him with a dip in the pool. A lab, he loves these so much! And I teach him tricks and goof around.

Funny things I observe. He loves the pool but whimpers when he must stay outside because he is wet. He loves the walk but sighs heavily when it is done and he is tired. He loves his food but then wants mine. He loves even more his treats but gives me puppydog eyes when I do not have another. I could throw the ball to him for an hour but he would beg an hour more, with chin on my thigh or propped under his front paws, his eyes imploring me. Just one more.

An opportunity for me he provides for I am a "fixer" and want to solve his sadness. Yet, as I've spent my days with him, I've come to realize that whatever I give him, he shall want more or the opposite. If he is out, he wants in. If I am upstairs, he wants me downstairs, and such. No matter the moment he will unwittingly find his way to some sort of inner misery. I watch the progress from happiness to discontent. He finds samsara effortlessly.