The reacting mind

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Let’s suppose that rain washes out a picnic. Who is feeling negative? The rain? Or YOU? What’s causing the negative feeling? The rain or your reaction? When you bump your knee against a table, the table’s fine. It’s busy being what it was made to be – a table. The pain is in your knee, not in the table. The mystics tell us that reality is all right. Reality is not problematic. Problems exist only in the human mind. Reality is not problematic. Take away human beings from this planet and life would go on, nature would go on in all its loveliness and violence. Where would the problem be? No problem. You created the problem. You are the problem. You identified with “me” and that is the problem. The feeling is in you, not in reality. 

Anthony de Mello, sj.

photo andreas duess

Our tendency to blame

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When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change

Thich Nhat Hanh

Editing ourselves

One of  the members of our group worked as an editor for a local magazine. She arrived often carrying bundles of page proofs from her still-unfinished work at the office. One wintry evening she was the first to speak: “It’s like we’re all trying to be editors over our emotions. We look ourselves over and decide what gets to stay and what has to go. We move from first drafts to smoothly polished paragraphs by crossing out certain grammatical mistakes and supplementing the weaker parts of the prose. When it comes to feelings and meditation, we’re all desperately trying to edit ourselves for improvement!

Gaylon Ferguson, Natural Wakefulness

…..and feel trapped in our lives

Treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. Rumi, The Guest House

Sometimes the things that are weighing us down in our lives can feel pretty big. We feel pinned down by them, constantly burdened. It could be confusion over  where our career is going; we could have financial worries; often it is family or relationship issues that cause restless nights; we can feel lonely and afraid. All that used to give us some joy has slipped away. At moments like these life seems to be sucked out of us, and we feel physically tired, unable to find real rest. We give up, not wanting to put ourselves in the position to be hurt again, or to grieve again, or   to be frustrated and angered, humiliated, disappointed. One image used in the Christian liturgy today – that of the boulder blocking the tomb – captures well this sense of  helplessness and despair.  Sometimes we can feel like we are being slowly buried alive, spent and weary,  trapped in our own “tombs” . We long for freedom, for a hint of new sense of life or hope  to come to us through the seeming loss and rubble of  our life. Sometimes we can find that when we make space and gain a new perspective outside the scene. At other times however, we need support – a word of encouragement, a friendly face, some “angel” to visit us, to reach down into our darkness and help us bear or overcome the load. We all have occasions to be that angel, in that we can all hold space for  another, kinder, reality for another person. We simply have to be willing to add our fresh shoulder to someone else’s bruised one,  and stand with them in their time of need.

Sometimes the boulder is rolled away, but I cannot move it when

I want to. An angel must. Shall

I ever see the angels face

or will there only be

that molten glow outlining every

separate hair and feather quill,

the sudden wind and odour, sunlight,

music, the pain of my bruised shoulders.

Ruth Fainlight, The Angel

Our inner drama department

When we examine our thought stream with mindfulness, we encounter an inner sound track. As it plays, we can become the hero, the victim, the princess or the leper. There is a whole drama department in outr head, and the casting director is indiscriminately handing out the roles of inner dictators and judges, adventurers and prodigal sons, inner entitlement and inner impoverishment. Sitting in meditation we are forced to acknowledge them all. As Anne Lamott writes “My mind is like a bad neighbourhood: I try not to go there alone” . When we see how compulsively these thoughts repeat themselves, we begin to understand the psychological truth of “samsara”, the Sanskrit word for circular, repetitive existence. Samsara describes the unhealthy repetitions in our daily life.

Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart

Our overactive minds

Most times that I fret and chafe about an upcoming engagement, someone cancels; most times I dread a coming moment,  the moment never comes. It’s not the world that I need to change, but the mayhem that my overactive mind makes of the world. It’s more than capable of seeing a blue car stationary, and constructing out of it a six-act melodrama

Pico Iyer, The Folly of the Weather Forecast