This week we had a great mix of our original group and some new faces as well. So exciting to observe these developments!
I was able to share with some of you all last night the monk Achaan Chah’s description of our relationship to the mind. When our mind wanders, we call if back. However, sometimes the mind is stubborn and increased dedication and focus must be brought to the practice. We give it the ‘stick’.
After sharing this story, we all seemed to agree our practice could use a little of the stick. For me, this conversation brought to mind Jonathan Foust’s talk on Concentration and Mindfulness (available at Facebook Bushwick Mediation). Concentration can be a powerful tool for cultivating presence and reveling what is for each of us in this moment. However, understanding our experience and truly letter go may require a different approach.
This weekend I was home for a few days visiting my family. As with many of us, I have difficult relationships with those closest to me. I sometimes take issue with the way they treat themselves and others. Holding my tongue in these situations requires a great deal of willpower and concentration.
While this dedicated approach helps to avoid conflict, is does not bring relief to the anger I feel inside. To understand my feelings and let go, it is necessary to engage in mindful awareness. Here, instead of applying Achaan Chah’s stick we invoke patients, curiosity and interest.
When I encounter this anger I ask, what is this about? What is beneath the anger? I see that there is pain and fear, concern for the people I love and the harmful behavior they are engaged in. I feel the need to control the situation, to take to action and fix things. And finally, I fear my inability to act, my imagined inadequacies or cowardice.
As you can see, there is a lot going on under the surface of base anger. Responding to these feelings with mindfulness requires an intention to allow things to be just as they are and to receive our experience with compassion.
We can ask ourselves what are these feelings about? Can I allow them to be just as they are? If not, how can I relate to my experience in a way that will bring some relief? From here we are able to make thoughtful decisions instead of reacting to fear and anger.
Thank you for sharing in the awareness and presence. I wish you all a blessed week and hope to see you again very soon.