Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Healing: The Mind

Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." This is a favorite Wisdom saying for me these days. Only I've been adding President James Garfield's addendum to it: "But first it will make you miserable."

This isn't always true. And Garfield says it in a way that shocks for emphasis. Yet when we're on a spiritual path, and we're inspired and brave enough to stay on it, it's true enough. 

The following passage from Jack Kornfield is a good description of one of the unavoidable views we get along 'true' spiritual paths. It's the prettiest picture. Yet "True" trumps "Pretty." Doesn't it? 

Or at least, Shouldn't it?

Mindful practice trains a person to observe the mind honestly and compassionately. What follows from JK is the honesty part--a truth that steady, clear, and brave observation always reveals. As you're reading it, remember the compassion part--the combination of clear eyes and warm hearts is the very prescription for deep and lasting healing. 

('Sweeter' bits will follow soon)

Just as we heal the body and the heart though awareness, so can we heal the mind. Just as we learn about the nature and rhythm of sensations and feelings, so can we learn about the nature of thoughts. As we notice our thoughts in meditation, we discover that they are not in our control—we swim in an uninvited constant stream of memories, plans, expectations, judgments, regrets.

The mind begins to show how it contains all possibilities, often in conflict with one another—the beautiful qualities of a saint and the dark forces of a dictator and murderer. Out of these, the mind plans and imagines, creating endless struggles and scenarios for changing the world.

Yet the very root of these movements of mind is dissatisfaction. We seem to want both endless excitement and perfect peace. Instead of being served by our thinking, we are driven by it in many unconscious and unexamined ways. While thoughts can be enormously useful and creative, most often they dominate our experience with ideas of likes versus dislikes, higher versus lower, self versus other. They tell stories about our successes and failures, plan our security, and habitually remind us of who and what we think we are.

This dualistic nature of thought is a root of our suffering. Whenever we think of ourselves as separate, fear and attachment arise and we grow constricted, defensive, ambitious, and territorial. To protect the separate self, we push certain things away, while to bolster it we hold tightly to other things and identify with them.