The Invasion of Terrible Thoughts

November 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’m going to deviate a bit from my plans to write about one part of the Eightfold Path a week, although what I do want to talk about today is in fact a part of it. I will, though, return to that plan in the next couple of days or so.

What I do want to write about here is something that happened to me while I meditated a couple of days ago. What I TRY to do here and there is to grab anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes every other day or so during the week, right before bed, to meditate.

I don’t do anything fancy really, I just set my Zen Timer iPhone app, let it gong, and try to focus on my breathing. Once the ending bell rings, I’ll use the journaling function on the app to vent out my frustrations with wandering thoughts, nodding off (yikes, I just fessed up to that!), or rave about how well it went.

I’ve been out of practice lately. I’ve been finding it really difficult to find the time to sit lately — there was the passing of hubby’s grandmother, then last week was just … well … last week. I was exhausted through most of it (it’s just that time of year for us teachers — burnout time approaches) and I knew that if I tried to sit at the end of the day, that I’d just nod off and get mad at myself for it.

So, for the first time in almost a week, I sat. My mind was oddly well … not sure what it was or how to describe it. Not still, but not really racing either, just … busy. I could focus on my breathing, but there was definitely something in the background, and I felt like I was unconciously fighting it off. Eventually, I realized that my mind was filling with horrible, violent images and thoughts. I really don’t feel the need to describe them, but needless to say, I was very disturbed by them.

I kept trying to push them away, but it seemed the more I tried to, the more they’d come back, and be worse for it. Like it was trying to get me to notice — a child that wants attention, when pushed away, screams louder. That’s what this was doing. I was convinced for a bit that my job was to push these thoughts away — then, I seemed to remember in one of the podcasts I listened to a couple of weeks ago (I think it was an interview on Buddhist Geeks, or maybe Secular Buddhists? If anyone recognizes this, I’d love to be reminded of the podcast and episode so I can correctly refer to it here). The gist of what the interviewee said was that there are some forms of meditation in which we are not encouraged to push thoughts aside, but to “sit with them, as with a friend.” He also talked about examining the persistent thought, and try to find its source so that we may understand why it keeps coming up.

So, well, I thought, I’ll try. I’d never done anything like that before, all I’d ever done was concentrate on my breath. But, this darned though, DID NOT WANT TO GO! So, I let it win, and it sat with me.

Once I stopped fighting it, I realized what it was — remnants of news I’d heard that morning, about the doctor in Connecticut who lost his family after two men broke into his home, assaulted him and his family (and this is putting it mildly, they did some disgusting, horrible things), and burned the house. Unfortunately, I’d listened to every detail that CNN had to give. Frankly, mothers shouldn’t be subjected to listening to these things — because the irrational fear and paranoia that news had instilled in me that morning, had gone unexamined by myself, simply pushed aside as I went about my morning routine to get us all out of the house and to school. And it sat there. And festered.

When I finally sat, it popped up. It didn’t go away because I pushed it aside and busied myself with my routine. Without my realizing it, it had simply slunk off to a corner of my brain, and waited for that quiet moment to manifest itself.

So what did I do with it as I sat with it, as with a friend? There were a few things that came to my mind as I realized all of this had happened — I remembered a talk we’d had, where we discussed the futility of worrying over the unkown, the need to let go of ‘anticipation’ of things — whether good or terrible. We can drive ourselves completely mad worrying about all the things that could go wrong, and we do! We need to — I needed to — let go of that expectation, that fear, because it was and is, irrational. There is no way to know whether terrible things will or will not happen to my kids. I can only know that right now, they are tucked in bed, that they feel safe, and that I love them. I need to be present in that knowledge, and thankfully, I was able to get myself there.

Now that I’ve written this, I seem to remember Dana Nourie putting up in the Secular Community radio in Second Life, a talk on Distracting Talks, that did address the issue of the intrusion of thoughts … Dang. Now I have to go and find all that info! LOL.

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§ 2 Responses to The Invasion of Terrible Thoughts

  • Ted says:

    Have we talked about the five hindrances yet? That might be a good topic for us to get into at another session!

    • We haven’t, and I had never heard of it before, so yes, I’d love for us to talk about that soon! Reading that Chapter 7 of What The Buddha Taught was the first time I’d heard of the Five Hinderances. Definitely need to add that to my list of things to learn about!

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