looking at thoughts

Wells and springs clean themselves by running freely. Block the stream and it gets dirty, cloudy, and foul. It is the same with looking at your thoughts.  My mind and heart will clean themselves if I simply look at my thoughts calmly and with complete and honest engagement.


This  is terrifying at first, both humbling and discouraging.  Improvement comes as I begin to recognize the transitory nature of thoughts.  They float by like clouds in a deep blue sky.  They pass.  I am not the clouds.  I am the sky.  I don’t have to reach out to push away the clouds whose shape I somehow reject, nor do I have to try to draw the ones I deem worthy around me like a smoky disguise.

I think this is one of the most freeing things meditation and mindfulness practice brings.  The clearing out of the mind.  My experience of this (so far) is just like described here:

“Imagine a cluttered garage. You can’t walk two steps without bumping into some old junk and stubbing your toe. It’s the same way in the mind; you can’t walk two steps without bumping into some painful memories, rigid self-perception, or unyielding belief about yourself and the world. Our minds are full of these things, and mediation is not going to eradicate these thoughts. Instead, mindfulness practice helps to create the sense of spaciousness without creating more junk. Mindfulness is a way of enlarging the cluttered garage of our minds. And occasionally, you might even get an opportunity to throw out a piece of useless junk”.  Arnie Kozak

I’m beginning to get a sense of this new spaciousness.  Not so much during the time on the cushion.  There it is just the returning to the breath, again and again.  But my relationship to the thoughts that float by is changing, both on the cushion and off.  I’m starting to be quicker to release when I’ve grabbed a thought and begun the inevitable process of filling in the whole “story” that goes with it.  I’m starting to notice the tension in my gut, the raising of my shoulders towards my ears.  It is becoming easier to let go of a wrong perception and also to let go when I’m wrong about something.  What freedom, not to be hopelessly clinging  to what is unable to be held!

Block the stream and it gets dirty, cloudy, and foul. This is a simple fact.  Psychology knows this. The Buddhist texts teach this.  Jesus did not say otherwise. The scholars tell us that the words attributed to him about sins of the heart were concocted by a later Christian.

In my experience at church, a lot of attention was given to wicked, sinful thoughts and “sins of the heart” but not in a way that helped much to rid me of them.  It seemed be more on the order of a commandment.  To put such negative force onto something magnifies its power.  All of the emotional and mental energy is spent in covering it up, hiding from it, denying its existence.  It makes me think of how long it took me to learn that not thinking about or dealing with traumatic experiences causes them to gain enormous power.  Plus, they get all sticky with puss and rot.  And the energy!  All of that energy spent, the spring dammed, the water becoming murky and poisonous.  It is no wonder that some church folks get off track.  They become blinder and blinder to their own stuff, all the while turning the inner whispered accusations outward onto the judgement of other folks.  Sad.

I really do need to read Jesus before Christianity by Albert Nolan.  I love the title.  I would like to salvage what I can, to not throw out everything.  I want to throw out what doesn’t fit, but hold on to what is good and auspicious, what will serve me on this continued adventure.