It can arise in the middle of an argument–especially one of those terrible repetitive arguments or one of those obsessive thought loops, times when we desperately try (and fail) to use the same old logic or way of thinking or word to solve a problem or soothe a worry or pry open a heart or mind. Often in those situations we end up getting upset and losing our balance and slipping into words and thoughts that are harsh and heavy, dragging the conversation down still further. Part of why we get upset is because we have this claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in this low and grindingly mechanical state, weighed down and limited, as if we’re trying to run in our sleep. Something in us is casting around desperately for a rock to break the lock because THIS IS NOT REALLY THE WAY I AM!
Not surprisingly, this rock throwing never works. It just escalates the negativity. Negative emotions are very addictive, and you know what they say about addiction: it’s doing the same old thing and expecting a different result. It just strengthens the habit.
But once in a while, right in the midst of it we turn and look at ourselves and see how we are spending our precious energy and time. How does this happen? It happens because we suddenly see ourselves from another place—in the light of an awareness that is greater than thought. “You can’t seem to stop your mind from racing around everywhere seeking something,” teaches Zen master Lin-Chi. “You must right now turn your light around and shine it on yourselves, no go seeking somewhere else. Then you will understand that in body and mind you are no different than the patriarchs and Buddhas, and that there is nothing to do.”In other words, we need to stop running around searching high and low and be still. The Buddha taught “the four foundations of mindfulness” – mindfulness of body, of feeling or sensation, of mind states and/or emotions, and dharmas or observations of how reality works. He wanted to show us that we are liberated as we take in impressions that come from the whole of ourselves, not just our repetitive and self-referential thoughts. We need to rest in the body, allowing the thoughts to calm down so better influences can enter. This can be as gentle yet as revelatory as if we are walking out of a cold dark house into the warmth of the sun. Slowly, gently, one moment at a time, we dare to leave our isolation and find creation is waiting for us. How? Return to the experience of being a body on the earth.
“The cosmos is our home, and we can touch it by being aware of our body,” teaches Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn. “Our home is available here and now.
In January 1925 Carl Jung visited the Taos Pueblo, and talked with an elder of the tribe named Mountain Lake. The elder told Jung that whites looked cruel to them, “their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something…We do not know what they want….We think they are mad.”[Jung] asked him why he thought the whites were all mad.
“They say that they think with their heads,” he replied.
“Why of course. What do you think with?” [Jung] asked him in surprise.
“We think here,” he said, indicating his heart.
The heart connects body and mind. It is the seat of the Bodhi mind, the awakening mind. It is the more we deep down know we are. How can we change our lives? How can we know a greater destiny? We must leave the isolation of the thinking. We must go outside in nature or sit down and be still. We stop all striving and come home. We must see and receive from a greater place, from the whole of ourselves. We must allow new life in.♦