Part Five – Resting in Whatever Arises
In the last post, I wrote that, “Meditation is about getting used to not being distracted. Or, inversely, meditation is about being in the state of non-distraction and getting used to that state.” That is, meditation is a process of getting used to meditating. And getting used to it means getting used to practicing even as thoughts and emotions arise.
And, in this series of posts, we’ve touched on how to use our breath as an anchor when an emotion or thought to arise within our mind, for example a desire for something or an angry thought about something that is said, we catch ourselves and realize that whatever triggered the arising is not its cause.
So, what this means is that when we practice meditation, we remain undistracted in the face of whatever arises within our mind. And, what we’ve discussed and what we come to realize is that doing this can be a lot harder than one would imagine. While it may be relatively easy to remain undistracted when faced with the constant flow of the mundane thoughts that arise when we’re practicing meditation, doing so when a strong emotion or feeling arises can be quite a different story.
What happens when we don’t remain or rest in the face of whatever arises? Ahh; that’s the magic. What we do is to realize that we’ve lost our attention and that whatever it was that arose was enough to knock us off of our center and throw us…wherever it threw us.
Once we’ve found that we’re distracted, and we are able to return our attention to the present by using our breath, for example, then what? We may be able to return to the present, but what about the fact that we’ve “lost it” due to whatever it was that arose? How do we stop this cycle of repeatedly getting lost in the arisings that occur within our mind and body? How do we antidote those things that have the greatest sway over our mind?
One method would be to find an antidote to all that arises, applying a specific remedy to each thought that arose; sound exhausting to me! How about you? The other way of working with all of the causes of our distraction from our vital presence is to see everything that arises as inherently empty of any true substance. When we think about it for a while, reflecting on our thoughts and emotions, they’re pretty insubstantial, aren’t they? That’s not saying that they don’t hold any power over us as it is at present. After all, we’ve given them substance and meaning through our repeated reactions them and by our beliefs that what they represent can affect us.
Okay, let’s get personal here; yesterday I had the opportunity to work with my mind in the most difficult of all possible situations. No, not while dying; it was even harder than that! It was while trying to get out of an argument with my spouse; yeah, that kind of difficult situation!
What made this situation most difficult was that I was unable to realize that what I was hearing were merely words that expressed my wife’s point of view; that her perspective, however valid or invalid I may have perceived it to be, stemmed from her way of thinking about things, and that she had a right to her way of thinking.
So often, we get most thrown when what we’re hearing or what we’re seeing contradicts who we believe ourselves to be or threatens that sense of who we are. So, the next time that you experience the physiological results, the mental muddling, or the temporal turmoil that accompanies a reaction to something that arises within your mind, after you’ve had a chance to return to your mind, reflect on what it was that caused you to lose yourself in yourself. What was it that created an inability to remain in your most compassionate or present state of being. Was the cause an actual threat to your bodily integrity? Was the cause of your distress external to yourself, or was it mostly in your mind? Work with this for a while, and stay tuned to the next post, Where Are Our Thoughts Anyway?, when we’ll discuss the fuzzy nature of where our thoughts really are…until then, abide in peace, and have fun with it all!