On looking for “the ultimate security blanket” (God)
From the book:
“… I don’t think Vipassana is necessarily the path for me. It’s far too austere for my notions of devotional practice, which generally revolve around compassion and love and butterflies and bliss and a friendly God (what my friend Darcey calls “Slumber Party Theology”). There isn’t any talk about God in Vipassana, since the notion of God is considered to be by some Buddhists to be the final object of dependency, the ultimate fuzzy security blanket, the last thing to be abandoned on the path to pure detachment…”.
This is where I discover that in the last few months of soul-searching not a single time did I think of looking for a “blanket” outside. Probably because I tried that before and came to the realisation that no warm sweater can really make me feel warm at all times unless the warmth comes from the inside.
It appears to me that just by looking for God one acknowledges one’s being separated from God and I don’t know how this is possible. As soon as we think or say “God” our conceptual and logical thinking, all the points of reference from our culture, our previous soul-searching experiences and imagination kick in. Would there be any place left for God among all this chaos? This is also one of the reasons why I believe Zen might be one of my “cherries” (E.G.argues for cherry-picking religion). 🙂 What makes a lot of sense to me in Buddhism is that for being what we call happy one doesn’t need to attain anything. On the contrary, we need to learn to let go. Not so much on the outside as on the inside: of our preconceived ideas, judgements, the ego… If I were to think of a New Year resolution on this New Year’s Eve, for the first time it would be about trying to figure out WHAT IT IS I NEED AND CAN LET GO OF NOW.
On the importance of working on the mind
From the book:
“…admitting to the existence of the negative thoughts, understanding where they come from and why they arrived, and then – with great forgiveness and fortitude – dismissing them…” “…So I’ve started being vigilant about watching my thoughts all day, and monitoring them. I repate this vow about 700 times a day: “I will not harbour unhealthy thoughts anymore”. “…Every time a diminishing thought arises, I repeat this vow…”.
Trying to deal with the control issue that E.G. is struggling with by learning to control her thoughts instead is the idea here. Reapeating one phrase though sounds very much like one of those techniques of working with positive affirmations which are supposed to make us trick our mind into believing something else (basically replace the negative thoughts with the positive). Instead of repressing or denying one’s “unhealthy thoughts” one simply shuts the door of the mind before they come in. If one puts the same effort into not taking those thoughts seriously, learning to see them for what they are – thoughts, mental constructs, products of our mind – there will be no need in shutting any doors! If we call our monsters (here: unhealthy or as they call them in Buddhism unskillful thoughts) by their names and simply watch them, not ideantify ourselves with them, they become harmful and we can let go of our desire for control, too. The idea is beautifully expressed in the poem:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
It is our mind that labels the thoughts as either healthy or unhealthy. Do even healthy or unhealthy thoughts exist in REALITY? Is it not just the terms we use to differentiate between two different kinds of thoughts from our perspective? I also believe, just like emotions that are now often considered negative in our culture (anger for example) but have had a very important role in our survival, even unhealthy thoughts might have something to say to us and it is up to us to be able to handle them properly in order to actually be friends with them, with everything that comes our way.
Another piece from the book that really rings the bell:
“… I wondered who is the “me” when I was conversing with my mind, and who is the “mind”…”
Watching my mind is one of the most fascinating, confusing and insightful tasks (all at the same time!) I have ever undertaken.