So I’m a Buddhist. Which means I do Buddhist things like meditating and practicing loving kindness, patience, equanimity and so on. There are a million different ways to practice this Path and lots of important things to keep in mind while doing so like impermanence, suffering and not-self. But lately I’ve caught myself doing something very unlike ‘me’, something that is helping me in a tremendous way, something I never would have thought of doing if I hadn’t started studying and practicing Buddhism. I’ve been watching my mind and reminding myself not to believe everything I think.
This may n0t seem to be a big deal to some but to me it’s monumental because over the course of my life I’ve given a great deal of trust and belief to my thoughts and feelings. I’ve always believed that my feelings and ideas were very important and meant important things. I’ve relied on my mind to tell me the truth all my life and it’s only now, at the age of forty, that I understand how big a mistake that was.
It’s a mistake to put our trust in our thoughts and feelings because our minds are very good at playing tricks on us and our minds are in the habit of reinforcing what we want to believe instead of what the truth actually is. We really are deluded beings and the more we watch our minds the more that truth becomes apparent.
So lately I’ve noticed myself automatically correcting my mind. I’ll be sitting doing some needlepoint and thinking about things and notice how my mind starts to react to the thoughts I’m thinking. For example, I’ll start thinking about something in my life that’s not going as planned and I instantly start feeling angry. At first my mind will trick me into believing that whatever thoughts I’m thinking are worthy of making me angry, of making me suffer. Then I’ll catch myself. I’ll start thinking, “These thoughts that are making me angry, and the anger itself, isn’t important in the grand scheme. They’re not worth the suffering. They’re not solving the problem, they’re only making it worse. Don’t believe your mind when it tells you these thoughts are important to think. They’re not. They’re impermanent and will come and go. They hold neither importance nor solutions, just more suffering. They’re not important enough to hold on to, so let them pass.”
I’ve never done anything like this before in my life. I’ve always been a brooder to a certain degree and believed all my thoughts and emotions had great validity. This has caused me great suffering in the past. In fact, when very bad things happened in my life I had a tendency to get lost in my thoughts about them. It felt like being caught in a loop of painful thinking and I couldn’t, or thought I couldn’t, drag myself out of it.
But that never happens anymore. I don’t nurse my anger or sadness or fear anymore. I don’t sit and saturate myself in thoughts of being hard done by or injured by someone. I still find myself starting to nurse some of these thoughts but now I’m able to nip them in the bud, before I get caught in the loop and before they escalate. I’m learning how to let go. Finally.
The thing that strikes me is that I feel like a child again. As a child I was resilient and I naturally lived in the moment. It was only as I got older that I lost my way and started imprisoning myself in my negative thoughts, living in the past, nursing sadness or anger or feelings of self pity. It feels to me that I got in my own way and once I got out of my way my mind naturally went back to its healthy way of experiencing the world. I’m learning how to get over myself and get out my way so the resilience of childhood and the natural tendency to live in the moment can resurface on its own. As it does.
I’m still at the beginning of this Path and I know there’s much more work to be done. But the simple fact that I’m catching myself when I’m putting too much faith in my thoughts is a sign of progress to me and it renews my energy and encourages me to keep going, keep practicing. I know results aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be and there’s no use in getting caught up in them. But a few signs of progress here and there go a long way and I’m grateful for them. In Buddhism it’s always a new day, another opportunity to do better, to be better and to get better. My heart is full of gratitude for the Buddhadhamma.