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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Advice Wanted

My dear friend Andi wrote to me this afternoon with a question regarding something she read on Beliefnet:

In the same way that someone in the midst of a rough crowd guards a wound with great care, so in the midst of bad company should one always guard the wound that is the mind.

-Santideva, "Bodhicaryavatara"

James: And here is her email to me:

Hey James.

I know your Buddhist blog isn't an advice column, but I would be very interested in your interpretation of this dharma teaching. Dealing with "bad company" in my house, as it were, I'm trying to find a middle path between closing myself off from it and at the same time remaining open to any positive experiences that are offered to me. It's really f**king hard.

I noticed, too, that this teaching is very specific; "the wound that is the mind" - so I understand guarding one's mind from negativity, patterns of behavior and thinking that perpetuate suffering - but what do we do about protecting the heart? I'm sure that making a division between the heart and the mind is another one of those illusions that we cling to - I'm just not sure how to frame an appropriate meditation - does that make any sense? It's almost as if the language we use makes it more difficult to drop the illusion itself. Maybe Tibetan has better words for it ;)

I'd love to know your opinion about this, and possibly hear from other regular readers of the Buddhist Blog. I will totally understand, however, if you choose not to post it, for whatever reasons you might have.


James's comment: I like to see thoughts as clouds that arise and pass by without much more then that. We can get worried about the dark clouds but they too pass with time.

I also like the idea of waves crashing onto the rocks. We often find ourselves on the rocks of attachment to negative thoughts.

However, when we detach from the waves by climbing up to a "Higher Ground" we can see those same waves as beautiful, soft and without real mean-spiritedness. We see them as simply a manifestation of the life-giving water that runs out of our tap.

Taking the time to spend some moments on the "Higher Ground" through meditation and/or reading some positive and healing words help us nourish and protect our heart in the middle of a heavy storm.

I also like to use mantras and gathas to help when I am in a situation where I can not privately meditate. You can do this in mind or in a private place such as the bathroom or while taking a shower/bath. This is the one I like to use the most:


In...out...deep...slow...calm...ease...smiling...release...present moment...wonderful moment...only moment.

I hope that helps Andi.

To others:

Anyone with some advice for Andi, feel free to respond.

-Peace to all beings-

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isaiah said...

Dear James and Andi-

Watch as the mind and heart rapidly progress through emotion after emotion, thought after thought, some good- some bad. Be mindful first, without judgment. With awareness we begin to learn our lesson.

Now, from the eyes of the Witness, seeing all, feeling all- and yet not what is seen or what is felt rather that which does the seeing and feeling (so quiet and still, I Am- is) re-member that which you are feeling at any moment.... is Divine, is in order...and is most (w)holy.

As Ken Wilber reminds us, "The simple feeling of being" is what the great search is all about. Rest in that part of you that understands this- that is just It. Rest in that part which doesn't understand, That too, is It.

"...But what do we do about protecting the heart?"

Sometimes the heart cannot be protected and is broken repeatedly throughout our existence. Ah- to not feel this pain is to not be fully human- is to not be in the moment, as it is, and we must re-member to always be in the moment!

Feeling the heart break is a gift with one simple lesson attached: "Feel this- it is only this, and nothing more." Yes, it is full of deep emotions, tears and pain...but we already know what drama this is and we should not allow ourselves to be attached...simply feel it, and let it go.....feel it, and let it go.

The simple feeling of being.


theycallmemac said...

Thank you, Isaiah, for the very thoughtful words. Being human entails pain along with the happiness and that is important for us to to remember.

And James, I really like your waves analogy. Thinking in that way can really help you to separate yourself from negative thoughts.


Ottmar said...

Good comments.
Two thoughts:
- In chinese there is no distinction between mind and heart... it is the same... heart/mind...

- There is no witness, only the act of witnessing. There is no self, so how can there be a witness.

"James" said...

Great thoughts everyone.

ACey said...

Sorry, I originally commented under the wrong post. I wanted to remark that, over the years, I have often embraced this specific teaching. For me it's a matter of seeing my mind as a vunerability rather than an inviolate guidance system. If I shift that one culturally ingrained perspective, everything else simply *becomes*

"James" said...

Acey: Exactly. I also like to put it that our "mind" is like a giant web that attaches to any little thing and blows through it.

The trick is to see it as just that. That the web is not permanent. It is fragile like anything else and blows away with a gentle breeze of being in the NOW.

If we rest in the breeze of the NOW then nothing can attach to the web of our mind because that web never gets to form in the first place.

Does any of this make sense? It does to me but somehow when you try to put these things into words...well, words always fall short of describing this kind of stuff.

isaiah said...

" There is no witness, only the act of witnessing."

First, one must discern the witness to be able move to beyond and into "one taste."

"There is no self, so how can there be a witness."

There is only one Self, one witness, one taste.

Ottmar said...

You memorize KW well.

isaiah said...

"You memorize KW well."

I have lived most effectively opposite "one taste" that the truth comes easier now. I understand it most when it whacks me up side the head, out of the clear, blue light.

Ken alludes to what has been shared over the ages by many others. His gift is in communicating the Dharma in a new light.

I did not know that in Chinese there is no distinction between heart & mind- thanks for sharing this with us.

marieroshi said...


I know from personal experience that it can be very opressing living in a household with so much negativity. In my case, it was easier to just pack up and leave all the crap behind. If you must stay with those people, love 'em anyway. And I agree with the chinese folks, too. Heart/Mind is the same thing. Becareful, be strong.


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