Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ah, The Mundanity of it All

During the question and answer portion of the sitting group last night, one of the newer practitioners mentioned that she was aware that she only had "mundane thoughts." I suppose she was hoping for more interesting or earth-shaking insights than the thoughts about her job which she was actually experiencing. It gave me the opportunity to mention a cartoon that Jack Kornfield had once shared of a road sign next to a desert highway that read, "YOUR OWN TEDIOUS THOUGHTS NEXT 200 MILES."

The truth is, most of what we experience during our meditation practices are very ordinary things. My uncle was a jet pilot in the Air Force, and he used to say that flying high-performance aircraft consisted of "hours of extreme boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." Vipassana is like that, as well. Much of the time there are just the same everyday thoughts and events that present themselves, and every once in a while we might have some kind of momentous insight.

Trying to produce these momentous insights, however, creates an obstacle in the way of our practice. Besides, it is really the ordinary, mundane thoughts that bring the greatest insight. By acknowledging them, and then allowing them to be, we can see more clearly the habitual tendencies of the mind to go in one direction or another. From these thoughts can arise emotional sensations that can be felt fully as they move and change and eventually subside within us. This process then helps us live with these thoughts and feelings more effectively in our daily life.

So welcome the mundane into your practice as a doorway into learning more about yourself, and in doing so, transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Oceans, by Juan Ramon Jimenez:
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                               And nothing
happens! Nothing...Silence...Waves...
- Nothing happens? Or has everything happened, 
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
(Translated by Robert Bly in News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness)

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