I’m borrowing the title from Chogyam Trungpa’s book The Path Of Individual Liberation (Judith L. Lief editor, 2014) because the fact is to achieve any kind of state of awareness we have to understand and truly know where our foibles sit, lay, exist. The book is a source of practice for me and, since reading it a couple of years ago, is one place I return to over and over again to gain clarity and focus on the path.
I titled this blog The Path TO Individual Liberation because there are specific actions one can take to go in the direction of such a path. In particular, the way TO liberation and awareness comes from some specific tasks one must take on to reach that state of being. For this particular blog post, I’m focusing on my neurotic and crazy mind.
I’ve been in and out of meditation practice for years. For the most part, my practice is stable, however, at times my crazy mind intrudes on my daily existence and things go sideways. I think you understand what I mean: a comment from a colleague or friend or family member sends me reeling toward anger, resentment, sadness, or extreme happiness or joy. I tend to think that the pendulum swing of emotions caused by these interactions are somehow natural or normal. In fact, those swings in reaction are part of my problem. Why have those wild swings when someone says something? For me, it’s because of attachment. I grab onto the statement, saying, phrase and chase it down….it makes me happy, sad, angry, etc.
Those reactions are, according to Trungpa, examples of the neurotic mind. These emotional upheavals, kleshas, are part of the reason our minds are so reactive. He says, “People have different emotional temperaments….They want to achieve something. Therefore they express themselves in terms of three basic poisons of passion, aggression, and ignorance…” (135). He encourages us to watch our state of mind as best we can.
I’ve experienced these reactions so often. If I’m very aware of my mind, I can watch these reactions rise and fall within my daily life. If not, I don’t understand my reaction until much later. After becoming aware, I face the reactions of regret, anger at my own reaction and etc.
Stabilizing my mind, really coming to terms with what my mind is doing in any given moment, is one key to understanding and practice. Thich Nhat Han offered that labeling thoughts is one way to become aware of what is happening in my head.
One very specific way I have come to understand my mind is through what Sogyal Rinpoche calls “Self-Tonglen”. In the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Rinpoche says that we can imagine ourselves as two aspects; one that is loving and compassionate (A) and one that is fearful, hurt, and maybe resentful (B) “Now, as you breathe in, imagine that A opens his or her heart completely, and warmly and compassionately accepts and embraces all of B’s suffering and negativity and pain and hurt. Moved by this, B opens his or her heart and all pain and suffering melt away in this compassionate embrace.” (217). Being compassionate and kind to yourself helps heal the break in your own mind, accepting what has happened and what you think as a fleeting experience or thought. Really embracing yourself….I have experienced the healing practice. It is valuable.
Further, once you have worked on those thoughts and emotions that torture you, extending your mind outward, realizing that everyone is experiencing those same troubles, allows you to extend that compassion you gave to yourself to those around you. In Tonglen for Others, Rinpoche says, “Now, just as in the practice of loving kindness, gradually widen the circle of your compassion to embrace first other people whom you also feel very close to, then those whom you feel indifferent about, then those you dislike or have difficulty with, then even those you feel are actively monstrous and cruel. Allow your compassion to become universal, and to fold in its embrace all sentient beings, all beings, in fact, without any exception…” (217). That practice of Tonglen takes me out of my neurotic mind and into the world outside of me and mine. This one simple approach can make a real difference in your life.
Having experienced serious health concerns and the very real daily experience of dealing with kids, students, colleagues, family, and friends, these paths forward have helped me understand my own mind and, to a great extent, release my attachment or grasping on these various neurotic thoughts and emotions. I offer these thoughts as just one way to find some clarity. Good luck, fellow human.