February 3, 2011

The Challenge of Taming the Mind

One of the daily challenges of Zen for me is not allowing my ego mind to take over. It's constantly pushing at me - think this, think that, this is VERY important. I give in often.

When I don't give in, I feel like I'm fighting myself. Even when I let the thoughts flow in then out, labeling them and letting them go, and being mindful of my attachment to them, it feels like a battle I wage where I am on the defensive.

These thoughts are always there. Always. Even when I am sleeping, in my nightly vivid dreams, my thoughts are a wild animal who has hurt itself and is thrashing and screaming to get away from the pain.

No matter how calm and gentle and compassionate we are to a wild animal in pain, it thrashes, and it can hurt us.

That's how I feel with my mind. Some days, the animal of thoughts is calmer, not so insistent, distracted or numbed by something, and the thoughts don't come as often. But other days, the pain is very real, and my head seems so small a place for them to be contained, pushing against the sides.

I breathe, I practice mindfulness, I meditate (as best I can with three kids and constant distractions), and yet, the wild animal is still in pain.

These thoughts aren't anything unusual. "I can't believe that happened," "What am I going to do about X," "I hurt so and so, how can I fix it?" "So and so is hurting me, how can I make them stop?" Things pop up from my past, dreams for the future, all of it is just normal stuff. Nothing above and beyond what I imagine any other engaged human being would think about.

Yet, they are constant. That's the tough part. I gently move them over in my mind to breathe and there they are again. And back again. And back again. I would really rather think about something else, thank you.

But, what is that "else" I want to think about? Is there anything else that I can think about that won't be painful? Even things that seem pleasant to think about are matched with the pain of knowing that pleasant thing will soon end. The pleasant things are fantasies, not reality.

One of my skills is to look at a problem in its entirety and then find the most satisfactory solution. I am also skilled at taking one idea and connecting it to another, finding parallels, metaphors, and how one thing affects another. That skill is also a curse, because thoughts and mindfulness is one thing that I can't really understand or see from far enough away to get a grasp on what the problem even is. I grasp and try to explain it, solve it, get more information about it. It doesn't work. The more I try to figure it out, the harder a problem it becomes.

Why can I not tame my mind? I think, it's because, I'm trying to tame my mind.

These past couple of days have been emotionally draining for me. Nothing specific is going on in my life to cause it. In fact, my internal struggle is probably because nothing is happening to distract me so my emotions are bubbling up and the wild animal is asking for attention. My emotions have been rolling around in my body, tensing my muscles, squeezing my brain. What do I do? What do I do? I vacillate between being emotionally paralyzed and wanting to let it all out, just to take a break, for a moment, from the wild animal jumping inside my head.

This morning, I was drawn to my horoscope, which some would say is pointless. Although many of my horoscopes are surprisingly accurate, today's wasn't. Pretty pointless. But for some reason, I wanted to read my husband's. His, too, was pointless.

On the same page, however, was an invitation to ask a question and get three answers from the tarot.

This is a random event. I know it. It's like the lottery. But I did it anyway. This is what happened.

I asked: Why can I not tame my mind?

It answered:

The Empress
You are reinventing yourself to create a better fit with your chosen profession.

Four of Cups
Celebrate friendships and close companions.

The Hierophant
The abundance you enjoy allows you the freedom to be yourself.

All three of these responses were dead on. The very three things my mind has been throwing at me have been - "where do I go now in my professional life and should I reinvent myself to do something else?", "I want to let go of the relationships that have been toxic to me, and focus my attention on the loving relationships," and "I am so lucky to be able to have what I have, why can I not enjoy it and just be OK with the opportunities I have?"

It was so dead on, I was inspired to write this post. It's no wonder my mind is shouting at me right now. I'm in the middle of change. Of something happening. Of life renewing. I'm at the doorway to the future. There's a lot of adjusting going on.

In fact, it's always this way. I'm always at this place, so it makes sense, that any given day, there's a chance the wild animal will start to resist the change, cry out for relief, and push me into my old ways. That's how it is. That's just how it is.

Realizing this doesn't tame my mind, but instead, sets it free. When those thoughts come, they aren't me, they are the ego trying to hold on to the past, trying to hold on to the old ways, trying to resist.

Taming the mind - is it possible? Perhaps so. But perhaps the only way to do it, is by not trying to tame it at all. Maybe that's what the dharma teachers mean when they tout the importance of being in the now, and mindfulness.

1 comment:

singh from dominos india said...

Loved the blog and loved the post i tamed