The previous post was about the first phase in the process of cognition, bare perception. I tell you from experience, if you can use the information at least once to observe how a particular feeling popped up in your mind, you will be hooked to it. It works because you get control over your feelings, you know, those things that make us ‘alive’, particular and human.
Not being at the mercy of our knee-jerk irrational feelings is what Buddhism is all about.
Observing in your mind the origin of a feeling is a form of mediation. It can be done while walking, eating (alone is better) or when you go to bed. Actually, I use this one, the EARLY MOVIE SHOW technique:
When you go to bed tonight, start seeing your day as it started the very moment you opened your eyes in the morning. See and recall every minute movement and thought WITHOUT emotional attachment or reactions to it, as if you were watching a movie in the theater. What was the very first thought that the guy in the 'movie' had when he opened his eyes? What did he see? Did he get up immediately? Every MINUTE thought and movement must be observed. Go as far as you can before falling asleep. You may notice emotions you woke up with and how they may have tainted your day or reaction to someone. You can do it in reverse: start from the moment you laid down in bed, in slow motion see every previous step all the way to when you woke up that morning.
Personal example of success with this meditation technique:
I once had a problem with a supervisor in my job, I thought he was rude to me. I was depressed all day long by the incident and, typical of depressive moods, I thought negatively about myself, whining ‘why no one likes me’. Those are the usual ‘conclusions’ one jumps into by knee-jerk mental reaction to daily incidents.
So, I went to bed that night all messed up and unhappy, and decided I didn’t want to be unhappy: why am I always unhappy? OK. it’s movie time. I did the exercise above and was able to go all the way, before falling asleep, to that moment in the office. After what I ‘saw’, I would had preferred living in ignorance bliss: I saw MYSELF having been the one who was rude FIRST! The poor man was just reacting to me! It was all so SUBTLE!
The next morning, I went to his office and explained to him what I did the night before and the results; I apologized to him. After picking up his jaw, he said no one ever apologized to him like that before, accepted the apology and became a friend!
I learned three very important things that night:
1. I was NOT a victim, at least not always.
2. I was not powerless; I had the power to affect others positive and negatively.
3. The exercise worked.
True, it does require expenditure of mental energy, but practice makes it easier to do over time; not every day maybe, but any single time you use it successfully, is one less moment of depression. It actually saves lives. I know.
Not a panacea, not that the thoughts and feelings don’t come back. They do, like the Buddha said in one sutra “feelings and habits fight to stay alive, even in a Buddha”. The difference is the control you have over your feelings.
I’m convince that was the Buddha’s message: your mind – your way of thinking, i.e. – is primitive, you are not aware of how it works, and as a result your lives stink! He lived in a very primitive society, just like Europeans, very violent, so he knew how bad it stinks. He knew there must be another way; he found it and bequested his findings to us in his teachings about the process of human cognition.
We are so attached to our bodily senses, to our ego and conceit, that any effort to put those things under the microscope is deemed as negative, an attack on our humanity, oppression, mind control (political)…Those negative feelings do fight to stay alive, don’t they?
Buddhism, the kind the Buddha taught, makes us more human, more compassionate; with its teachings and meditations it allows us to experience in our very own skin the power of the mind when it becomes pliable and obedient under our personal control.
Buddhism is the ‘science’ for the future. If we adopt it, our minds will evolve, in more or less 5k years, to the highest level it is capable of achieving. Our society will evolve to one with more equality and fairness. Our main problem would be the natural ones, food and protection from the elements, but we would work on it for the benefit of everybody.
Better hurry up; the modern scientists of the mind are about to convince you that it is better to live with a programmable (by them, of course) mind than for you to develop its power to reduce mindless aggression and consumerism.