Monday, April 12, 2010

Deep Cleaning of the Mind

There is mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of body sensations, mindfulness of feelings, mindfulness of sounds, mindfulness of whatever is most compelling . . . So many different kinds of mindfulness! Lately, my attention has turned to mindfulness of thoughts. Taking a very involved approach, that goes beyond simply acknowledging, and letting go of the thoughts, as is most common in meditation. The image that comes to me, is of a deep cleaning of the mind. It goes like this:
  1. Become mindful
  2. Notice the thought(s)
  3. Identify whether thought is wholesome or not wholesome
  4. If wholesome, cultivate the thought
  5. If not wholesome, label the thought, and replace it with its wholesome counterpart
Be like the Buddha, as he was striving for deliverance, before his enlightenment:

Meditating in the forest, he found that his thoughts could be distributed into two different classes. In one he put thoughts of desire, ill will, and harmfulness, in the other thoughts of renunciation, good will, and harmlessness. Whenever he noticed thoughts of the first kind arise in him, he understood that those thoughts lead to harm for oneself and others, obstruct wisdom, and lead away from Nibbana. Reflecting in this way he expelled such thoughts from his mind and brought them to an end. But whenever thoughts of the second kind arose, he understood those thoughts to be beneficial, conducive to the growth of wisdom, aids to the attainment of Nibbana. Thus he strengthened those thoughts and brought them to completion.

Since greed and aversion are deeply grounded, they do not yield easily; however, the work of overcoming them is not impossible if an effective strategy is employed. The path devised by the Buddha makes use of an indirect approach: it proceeds by tackling the thoughts to which these defilements give rise. Greed and aversion surface in the form of thoughts, and thus can be eroded by a process of "thought substitution," by replacing them with the thoughts opposed to them. The intention of renunciation provides the remedy to greed. Greed comes to manifestation in thoughts of desire — as sensual, acquisitive, and possessive thoughts. Thoughts of renunciation spring from the wholesome root of non-greed, which they activate whenever they are cultivated. Since contrary thoughts cannot coexist, when thoughts of renunciation are roused, they dislodge thoughts of desire, thus causing non-greed to replace greed. Similarly, the intentions of good will and harmlessness offer the antidote to aversion. Aversion comes to manifestation either in thoughts of ill will — as angry, hostile, or resentful thoughts; or in thoughts of harming — as the impulses to cruelty, aggression, and destruction. Thoughts of good will counter the former outflow of aversion, thoughts of harmlessness the latter outflow, in this way excising the unwholesome root of aversion itself.

- From Bikkhu Bodhi, in The Noble Eightfold Path, the Way to the End of Suffering -

No mystery here. Only tedious, and indeed very sacred work. 

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