Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ravings of a Thought-Crazed Lunatic

Last night I sat on my patio as the sun was setting, and watched myself being tortured by my mind. I was sitting with a particularly upsetting issue that had arisen (an old, hot-button issue), and I closed my eyes and simply allowed the feelings of anger, hurt, resentment, and old abandonment stuff to burn within me. I watched the workings of the mind as it pored over the upsetting events of the day, and I knew even as it was happening that I was being hit with what the Buddha called the "Second Arrow."

I've discussed the Second Arrow many times in this blog. It is when the mind creates more problems than the actual event or situation warrants, often creating problems where there are no problems to begin with. Last night, however, as I sat in awe and observed the workings of this crazy mind, it felt like I was being hit, not with a single arrow, but with thousands of them every second. The rapidity of the arising of negative thoughts and their subsequent emotional reactions was astonishing.

After being with this experience for a while, I turned my attention as fully as I could to the feeling of the body breathing. This was difficult at first because the volume and intensity of the thought contents practically blocked out all ability to focus attention. Finally I felt a few breaths, disengaging momentarily from the onslaught of the thought tsunami.

Then the thoughts took over again, and I was back on the wave, only this time, they seemed a little more distant and not so immediate, as though a little space had been placed between my awareness of the thoughts, and the thoughts themselves. Because of this space, it was much easier to come back to the breath, which I did over and over again. Each time I disengaged from the thoughts and went to the breath, the thoughts got weaker. The area around them more spacious, and soon the upsetting thoughts were gone and normal, present-moment thoughts had taken their place.

This is sometimes the process of Present-Moment Sensory Reality: we have very loud, troubling thoughts that have us trapped in suffering, and our ability to disengaged is limited, at best. We get a moment of respite from the thoughts by coming to our senses, and then the thoughts are back again, and so we disengage again, and on and on it goes.

At first, this kind of process may make you think you really are going crazy. It can feel as though there is a ping-pong match going on in your head, moving rapidly from thoughts to breath and back again. By staying with the process, however, the thoughts will eventually quiet down a bit, and a sense of spaciousness opens up. In this space, we can then access Wisdom Mind, that part of our consciousness that can help us find more effective and intelligent alternatives to our habitual reactions to situations.


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