Breathe in, breathe out…

My mind turns toward the dhamma text I’ve been reading: Bikkhu Bodhi’s “The Noble Eightfold Path”. I reflect on Right View and the operations of kamma, the impersonal law of cause and effect.

Breathe in, breathe out…

I can see some of the view I have that cause myself suffering. Kamma is very deep. It flows like water. The more I bring attention to right view, the deeper that water penetrates, freezes, and cracks open the scales on my eyes.

Breathe in, breathe out…

As wholesome as these thoughts are, I turn my mind back to the breath. This is a concentration session, not an insight session! I struggle to rest on the breath.

Breathe in, breathe out… *TWITCH*

My back spasms hard. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s a violent shake. I try to relax the body

*TWITCH*… I shift position *TWITCH*

Restlessness arises strongly in the mind. The thoughts are racing like a windstorm. No longer on kamma or Right View, now my mind wants to give the whole session up. Unfortunately, I give in. I console myself with reading more dhamma.

I am reminded that I need to practice more. Meditation is a skill that grows over time. Eventually I may have the mental muscles to resist even strong physical sensations. I can ignore wind blowing over my skin, but not my body jerking around like a ragdoll. Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often. This experience just means that I need to work harder at replacing my thoughts.

A big part of the Buddhist path is learning how to replace thoughts within the mind. When we have something unskillful or unwholesome arise in the mind, we have three basic choices. We can indulge in it to make the itch go away. This doesn’t do much good, even if there’s a temporary benefit. We can suppress it, but that causes a whole different set of negative reactions to arise. The middle way between indulgence and suppression is replacement.

The classic metaphor is that of a sore-covered leper. A leper could try to repress the pain of the sores, but that’s not going to get rid of the sores. A common treatment for the sores in the Buddha’s time was to burn them until the pain of the sores went away. This did seem to help in the short term, but then they would get infected and hurt even worse. This is like indulgence.

Replacing thoughts is like cleaning the sores, applying medicine, and bandaging them. Over time, you begin to feel much better. If you’re invited to go back to the fire, you refrain quite naturally. You don’t need more of that kind of pain.

Do you have poor habits that you return to again and again? Study dhamma and replace your unwholesome tendencies with wholesome ones. Practice again and again until you see progress then practice more!

Keep meditating,

Harry

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