December 5, 2011

Buddhism In One Step: Let Go.

I’m having kind of a rough morning.

Now by rough I don’t mean that I’m being tortured or imprisoned or forced to do things against my will. I’m just having a hard time with me getting out of the way of me.

Here’s the context: I’m cleaning out my apartment, getting ready to go on my trip to India and everything is irritating me. I mean everything.

Moving is stressful to be sure but it doesn’t really warrant getting upset about little things. By little I mean crying in the bathroom because I stepped on an old Q-tip (the cotton swab not the brilliant hip-hop artist) that I had stepped on a dozen times and just hadn’t picked up yet. By little I also mean almost getting up the in the middle of Starbucks to scream “Can you all just shut the fuck up please? I’m trying to write here,” or threatening myself to call the whole trip off because I can’t find a receipt for a $40-something-I-don’t-need that I want to return to the Apple Store. (Oh yeah, they emailed it to me.)

I want to rage at the world for not being able to find a parking spot right away, for having to go to work tonight even though I have a million things to do, for having put something in storage that I just remembered I really need to take with me on my trip.

My mind is out of control and I am not applying one thing that I have learned these past four years. I am tumbling away down the riverbed, tumbling along in a flashflood of my mind.

“What is it?” is the Zen instruction for when things get this out of control in our heads. My teacher puts it another way: Watch the origin, abiding and passing of the afflictive emotions. This is the basic method of Buddhism for beginning to release ourselves from suffering. We train ourselves to watch what is going on in our minds. We see everything rise and fall and pass away. We see that everything is impermanent, our thoughts, our emotions, our opinions, our experiences, even ourselves.

I am not getting this right now. I am not seeing the illusory nature of things. I’m not seeing the humor in any of this either.

But later, when things settle down and I’ve washed up on the side of the riverbed, I’ll be able to apply some “retroactive mindfulness”.  Then I’ll do a little bit better. I’ll see that I’m really OK, that I’m unscathed despite the bumps and bruises from the smooth, round rocks. And, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to take a long, slow breath and just let it all go.

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