Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Take Thou Our Minds

one of the skills that requires much effort, at least for me, is the recognition that my thoughts are not "me" and shouldn't control how i live my life.  there is an excellent post by tara brach on the wildmind blog that addresses this profound truth.  as i wrote in last week's post, this is one of the disciplines on which i'm working during lent.

to stand apart from the thoughts that we normally think of as our "self" and view them in a detached way is enormously helpful.  i often find myself addressing the "self" of my thoughts in the third person.  seeing that self as "you" enables me to analyze the stories i'm telling myself.

for instance, when someone says something that i interpret as being unkind, my mind begins to build up resentments and hurts that give rise to anger toward the person who i feel is being unkind.  when i step back and analyze what's going on in my head, i can say "you feel hurt because he was unfairly critical of you, but was there some merit in that criticism?  was there something you could learn from that comment?  why was the comment made?  is he lashing out at you because of something going on in his life, something you know nothing of?  what if you treated him with compassion and opened yourself so that he felt he could confide in you about his suffering?"

when i stop, breathe, and take time to be mindful of the anger building in my head over some supposed affront, i find that the anger dissipates rather quickly.  the anger is replaced by a desire to be helpful to the person that my "self" has told me is causing me to suffer.  in the same way, as soon as i feel anger in such a situation, if i immediately say in my head, "may you be well, may you be happy, may you be at peace," it is impossible to let anger build.

i hope that this discipline is not only a lenten discipline, but that i will carry this practice into my life every day from now on.  may we all learn to recognize those thoughts that lead to negative ways of being and replace them with thoughts that lead to happiness, lovingkindness, and compassion.  may we recognize that we aren't our thoughts and that those stories rumbling around in our heads don't have to control us.  shalom.

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