I’m on a roll with this monsters in the basement theme, so bear with me for one more article.
Our delusions project problems “out there”, in all the directions they face. Work problems, relationship problems, political problems, weather problems, sickness problems, etc. … karma ripening as a myriad of hallucinations. Impure energy winds flow through the left and right channels giving rise to strange appearances and states of mind. Whichever way we want to look at it, stuff happens, and it doesn’t matter; it is weather that will pass.
As explained in the mind-training teachings, we can use whatever appearance arises to remind us of renunciation, compassion, wisdom, and so on — essential qualities on the spiritual path to lasting freedom and helping everyone. If we get good at this through practice, there comes a time when we even think, “I need this!” when a suffering arises. At which point it is hard to say that it is a suffering any more.
We might even get to the point where our patience is so strong that we are happy with whatever arises. We might even think, “I choose this! I choose everything.” What a wonderful feeling to no longer be a victim, but to be in charge of our own life at last.
“It’s so unfair!”
I want to add this great insight from a comment someone just submitted (below):
“The thought that we could be so open and accepting of life is really powerful. When we stop fighting and rejecting what is appearing to us, we, in effect, gain full emotional balance, peace of mind. That’s incredible. I think I found this particularly moving because in the past I have really suffered with a victim mentality. Life was so painfully ‘unfair’. This mentality gives all the power to other people and external events, it is very debilitating actually.”
Out in the open
When a ghost next comes up the basement stairs, it is out in the open. We can think, “It is good that you have come up here, I can see you! You are out here in the sitting room where it is easy to accommodate you – in fact, please meet my friends Love and Patience, as well as all these enlightened beings; everyone is here!”
In this context, delusions coming up can be so useful, reminding us what we need to do, as well as what everyone else is up against. Each time we work though our own stuff and come out triumphant, we become more skilled at helping others – “This is how I got rid of my jealousy, you can try it too.” It’s a bit like getting the demons out of our own cellar and then showing the neighbors how to do the same. We can all help each other for we are not each other’s enemies but in this together.
What if I don’t want to get over it?
I have come across people who are grieving who don’t WANT to get over it because it feels traitorous to the loved one and their memories. Or sometimes we don’t want to get over broken relationships because that means acknowledging that we are failures, or that the whole thing was a waste of time.
But letting go is never traitorous – love is the answer, we can still love them. Love is also the best healer.
And we are not failures as relationships inevitably break up sooner or later, that is the nature of samsara. Also, there is no relationship from which we cannot learn something if we want to, meaning that it was not a total waste of time.
Even realizing that the attachment part was a bit of a waste of time is very helpful for avoiding it in the future, and for encouraging us to learn Buddha’s skillful methods for enjoying the honey while avoiding the razor!
Moving on and accepting the present means we can establish a saner and more positive relationship with that person, even if we never see them again in that form. The freedom to respond constructively comes from the acceptance of what is, not holding onto what is not and cannot be. With gratitude for what is making us stronger and wiser; with love and compassion; with pure view. After all, they don’t exist from their own side, so we have the freedom to view them however we choose.
To deal with our demons, we need to meditate. We don’t have much power to identify, reduce, and abandon our delusions without sitting down to meditate regularly. We need some introspection. As Geshe Kelsang says:
Unless we make some time every day to meditate, we shall find it very difficult to maintain peaceful and positive minds in our daily life, and our spiritual practice as a whole will suffer. ~ Transform Your Life
We need time out. We need, and can have, a daily vacation to get space and balance. Even the simplest breathing meditation can put us in touch with the natural peace and sanity of our own mind.
According to Buddhism, if we are so busy that we have no time to change our minds, we are wasting our time in laziness. It is a bit like being too busy to stop being too busy. Or like attempting to cut down a tree relentlessly for days with a blunt axe, when taking 15 minutes out to sharpen the axe would do the job so much more quickly and painlessly.
As Geshe-la says:
We need time alone to recover our strength, collect our thoughts, and see things in perspective.
Worldly activities are said to be like a man’s beard – though he shaves it off in the morning, it is back by the evening. Spending our whole lives trying to fix our problems outside our mind is exhausting and counter-productive. No wonder men in Denver don’t bother shaving any more.
Over to you, comments welcome.