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Monday, May 04, 2009

A Fire Reflected in a Lake.

A fire reflected in a lake cannot burn the water. Neither can emotions disturb the mind when you don’t get involved in them. Don’t identify an emotion as your self. The fear or anger is not you, only an impersonal phenomenon.

Mentally pull back from the emotion and turn your awareness around to observe it. When in the grip of negative emotion we tend to believe it will never end. But emotions are no more permanent than thoughts.

With continued practice you’ll find that you only have to wait and any emotion, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is bound to change.

–Cynthia Thatcher, from Just Seeing: Insight Mediation and Sense-Perception (Buddhist Publication Society)

James: It sure is hard not to identify with emotions--especially when an emotional reaction is so ingrained within the psyche that its emergence seems totally involuntary. However, we know that at some level we have made a conscious choice to react in one way or another. We feel so helpless and at the mercy of these destructive and misery creating emotions. The suffering they engender is so great that it is like experiencing a nightmare.

A nightmare is a pseudo reality where the most ridiculous, terrifying and outlandish events stream through our mind like an all too real virtual reality, interactive video game. The nightmare seems so plausible--perhaps we find ourselves fleeing from a monster in our dream. Or maybe we get ourselves into some crazy situation such as a recurring dream of mine where I end up unjustly thrown in prison--an innocent man. The terror and suffering in those moments are so visceral that they can even cause the physical body to wake up sweating and gasping for air as if the body was in a real fight or flight situation.

There is, however, something called, "lucid dreaming" where a person is aware that they are dreaming--as they are dreaming. I have experienced this phenomenon every so often and it is often like watching things unfold from a third person point of view, which usually lessons the impact of the events. It is a way to step back from what is going on and get a bigger picture view of it all and see that in truth you are not going to die, or get thrown in prison or lose your parent, child or spouse. It is said that a person can train their mind to be able to go into this third person vantage point while dreaming to better deal with and process the events and impacts of the dreams.

In this way, I see meditation as the lucid dreaming of the waking state to be practiced and fine tuned to be a set of tools to enable us to walk through samsara and accumulate less heavy karmic debts.

~Peace to all beings~

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6 comments:

Kyle R Lovett said...

You wrote "It sure is hard not to identify with emotions--especially when an emotional reaction is so ingrained within the psyche that its emergence seems totally involuntary. However, we know that at some level we have made a conscious choice to react in one way or another. We feel so helpless and at the mercy of these destructive and misery creating emotions. The suffering they engender is so great that it is like experiencing a nightmare."

Very well put James, our emotions can be so difficult. They seem much like and instinct as you said, but we know we have some conscious choice. Great post!

Shinzen Nelson said...

Yes, I agree. It is a great post.

As a psychotherapist moving my clients towards this non-identification with thoughts/feelings can be challenging, but also so very rewarding when their 'light-bulbs' go on. When they become aware they can actually choose a response to a situation rather than react unconsciously it is very empowering.

Again, great post!

PeterAtLarge said...

Nicely done, James. Interesting to me, especially today, in light of my own entry on the back pain I've been experiencing.

wsfaro said...

Hi James! I just came across your blog today. This is indeed an interesting post - to me your post shows how attachment to a part of self, in this case emotions, can lead to suffering. However, as you mentioned through meditation we can change our selves and help us alleviate those karmic debts. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

Tom said...

I feel [feel!] that emotions are getting a bit of a bum rap.

Compassion is a kind of passion. Love without emotion is robots kissing.

Even when we pull back from them, they supply information.

Only when they pose a danger of disruption should we "count to ten," as they say, and not pop off immediately, but try to orient ourselves.

Anger is useful, if only in enabling us to understand others who are angry. Without the full panaply of emotions, we would be adequately informed how to begin our day. [Ask medicated schizophrenics who don't so much feel 'bad' as feel like 'nothings.']

Truly, don't you think and feel, that the so-called bad emotions give the so-called good emotions vim from the contrast?

Often my reaction to my nightmares and bad meditation experiences is (or should be, I think), Wow, that was amazing.

racecar said...

Aedh Wishes For The Cloth Of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, the blue and the dim and the dark cloths of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Yeats
Aedh was a celtic god of death, described as fire reflected in water.

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