The mental garbage coming up during retreat has been interesting. I noticed that it is not manifesting as thought very often. Usually, it is just this heavy feeling of resistance to open myself up fully. It has taken a long time to figure out what it is. I just feels like a solid brick in my chest. Sometimes, it manifests as a feeling of laziness, or aversion to Bodhichitta practice. Sometimes, it manifests as selfish thoughts. Mostly, it just feels like carrying a brick around in my chest. I decided that I don’t have a suppressed thought coming to the surface—I am just going through more purification. I am happy that my selfish drives are being purified, and I am really humbled and in ah at how subtle and deep the purification is taking place.
It was only three months ago that pride was all encompassing and the primary reason I did anything. I was completely tormented by this. I noticed recently how my mind doesn’t feel pride as often. I noticed that my attachment to pride and reputation has really seemed to have lessened. I still deal with pride of course, but I can really see the improvement. I’m not entirely sure how this happened. While I was working on pride, it seemed so all encompassing. It seemed impossible to ever be free. Now, it feels like I can see the end of the dark cave of pride and enter more fully into a life for others. I am so moved to notice this. I am so moved because in hindsight the process seemed so quick. I remember feeling like it was never going to end and having so much trouble being patient. I am really grateful I have the opportunity to develop strong, stable compassion and loving kindness. I have faith that I can become a Bodhisattva. Buddhism is more that just a psychology. I am being transformed in ways I can’t really describe or understand. Buddhist practice is so powerful because it transforms your subconscious and conscious—your most subtle and gross mind at the same time. Psychology can only impact your gross consciousness.
Purification can be really difficult if you are doing it for any reason other than for others. If I have any motivations for pride and reputation, then I simply don’t have the patience to maintain practice during purification. I often don’t feel like I am enough for others. I focus on myself instead of them. This results in a lot of difficulty during practice. I tend to see purification as a wall. I start thinking that I need to break a hole through the wall. I tend to think that if I am not practicing with a clear mind. I am starting to think this is silly. I am starting to think what benefits others is not me, but the effort I put in. If I am having trouble sitting on a cushion, I earn merit just staying on the cushion. I am starting to think it won’t be selfish or sinful to not push anymore. Maybe, it is good just to do what I can do and just keep trying. I think the merit comes from the effort not the pushing. I think effort alone must be pretty gentle on the mind.
Another interesting approach to this is the concept of just letting it go. I often get confused and think this period of purification is me—a deeper me. Like all of this crap is bubbling up to the surface and it is coming from this deeper self. Therefore it must be a truer me. Oh my god! How can I be so selfish!? How can I think these thoughts? Where are they coming from? I have no control over them.
Now I am realizing this isn’t me, so I can just let go. It won’t last forever and I don’t need them for anything. I want to dedicate the next year to just letting go. Purify and let go. I want to let go of any experience that arises—especially since I will be doing a lot of purification. I hope that I always remember that what arises in my mind isn’t me and just let it go. Not throw it away or try to get rid of it, but let it go and let it move out of my mind in its own time. I have written a mantra for myself.
I am not my actions, I am not my thoughts
I am not my feelings, I am not my desires
I am not my accomplishments, I am not my failures
I am not in the past, I am not in the future
I am not my color, shape, or sensation
and there is no reason for me to be any of these things
I named it the mantra to solve all Western problems. When doing purification, the first line, “I am not my actions, I am not my thoughts” is really helpful. When experiencing attachment, the second line helps. When I feel myself grasping to desiring achievement, the third and fourth lines are helpful. In the fifth line, color, shape, and sensation is referencing my body. Form is just color and shape.
Sometimes, such selfish thoughts arise. Sometimes, I really feel like I need to give myself what I want and ignore what others want to be happy. I have been trying to remember to tell myself there are others too. I am not the only one who feels this way. I found this is a very gentle way of opening my heart. I am not telling myself the desire is bad or that I can’t have it. I am just gently reminding myself to look outward to. To have love. I am not demanding myself to change my behavior. I can still have whatever it is I want. I am simply reminding myself to feel love. Love feels good, so I only gain from it.
I had a group mate say something interesting about helping others. He said when I help others I only gain from it. If someone wants me to carry something for them, then I get strong. If he is always asking me again and again to carry something for him because he is lazy, he is helping me get strong. Eventually, he may grow to like this quality of strength that I have and then he will want to carry things with me.
My grandma did this with me. She always served me and gave me everything I wanted and eventually I wanted to develop those qualities too. I thought this was an interesting idea that he can only benefit from helping others. I have never considered it before. I wonder if this is true for every situation. Like giving someone the front seat of the car because they want it even though you called shot gun. I think this is really worth exploring.