Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cleaning the Mind of 'Me'

Swimming, and trying to concentrate on each back stroke, I found instead busy mind constantly interrupting, with its stories about 'me'. Rehearsing imaginary situations, getting into roles, playing out several drama . . . none of which truly relevant to the present experience of swimming in the pool. There was suffering attached, for sure. Familiar tug in the midst of stomach introduced constriction amidst the otherwise natural expansion of body stretching with each lift of the arms back. Freedom felt so close, and yet hindered.

The day before I had asked a question to Gil, at the end of his talk on the 'True Self'? I wanted to know,  why is the mind so inclined towards self-making activities? Gil's answer helped me realize I had raised the wrong question. Of course the mind needs to produce thoughts about various ways for us to be in particular situation! When I am seeing a psychotherapy client, I need to bring a certain set of skills, a way of being, that will best serve the other person. When I need to use a public restroom, I need to identify as a woman, to go to the right place. When I listen to Gil's talk,  I become a student . . . 

Instead, a better question would have been, why so much clinging to identities that don't belong to the situation? Why, given that it leads to so much unnecessary suffering? And perhaps, even more important and practical, is the question of how to let go of the clinging?

I remembered Ayya Khema:
'We learn to do this by dropping every single unwholesome thought, so that only skillful, beneficial, and positive mind states remain. The more unwholesome thoughts we have, the more our home, the heart, becomes defiled and unpleasant. Once we have dropped a thought, we gain the strength to drop it again. By doing so we clean up our home. We sweep our rooms and hallways. Let's sweep the heart every day!
~ from Be an Island ~
Swimming, I shall practice just swimming. And when a thought comes about 'me' not swimming, I shall drop it, and come back to the now. 

Practicing . . . 


  1. So useful, this identifying of thoughts and our control over what we do with them. Thankyou.

  2. Yes, this whole business of the not self has been the most important aspect of practice for me lately. I am very grateful to Gil Fronsdal for making it so clear. The third pillar of insight after dukkha (unsastisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence), . . . Anatta (not self)! and that which took me longest to get in an experiential way.