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Blog: Poke Him in the Eye

May 17, 2014

A sangha asked me where my practice was currently. I responded:

I awoke around 12:30 in the morning, rolled over, and began to slide back into slumber. A thought drifted lightly through the side of my mind: “He’s an emotional coward.”

“He,” referred to a man with whom I’d had a difficult relationship. I’d handled it with equanimity, empathy, and compassion. I had been a paragon of kind maturity.

The phrase “emotional coward” captured the essence of what I’d found difficult. The angry vapors seeping out of the phrase brought me back from the edge of sleep. “Send him an email. Tell him he’s an emotional coward,” I thought.

I no longer felt like a paragon of compassion. “I’d like to stick a finger in his eye.” Beneath my spiritual sensibilities was a tantrum I had been quietly pushing aside.

I might have been able to subdue the ire. But when I try to fight the truth, I always lose sooner or later. And the truth was I was angry. The genie was out of the bottle and I had no desire to push it back in.

Now I was thoroughly awake. I got out of bed, wrapped up in a blanket, and sat down to meditate. I did the refuges, precepts, and two aspirations: “I seek to observe the mind without preference.” “I seek clarity and acceptance.”

My object of meditation was equanimity spreading in all directions. After a short while it began to thin out into clear mind.

Then a thought erupted: “I want to tell him this, this, this, and that.” I didn’t really want to poke him in the eye. But a good tongue-lashing would feel satisfying.

I recognized the flush of anger. Meditation is a purification process. As the mind-heart quiets down, psychic toxins can rush to the surface. It’s healing.

So I just let the feelings be. I released them in the sense of not trying to hold onto them or push them away. But I gave them plenty of space to romp around inside. At the same time I relaxed the tension in them: it felt like relaxing into the anger. I smiled slightly and sent out a little equanimity.

“This would be a better way to say it,” I thought. “That’ll get him.”

An hour later waves of righteousness continued to rise through me, followed by moments of quiet, followed by another wave. I just tried to stay out of the way and let them do their thing. They’d throw me off balance for a moment. I’d feel it, release it, relax into it, and return to equanimity only to have another wave throw me against the rocks.

I had hoped this would subside. But it kept going. I felt discouraged. I recognized the discouragement as just another impersonal energy, released it, let it be, softened into it, and smiled.

Fifteen minutes later I noticed the thoughts no longer had any specific content. They still reverberated like buffalo stampeding across the plains. But I couldn’t make out individual animals any more. There weren’t specific thoughts, just thundering hooves.

Then the rumbling ceased. There was still aversion without content. I continued to recognize what was going on in the mind-heart, released it, relaxed into it, smiled softly, and sent out peacefulness.

Then it was all gone. There was only a pervading quiet and ease. I vaguely remembered that I had been upset about something. But it took effort to recall what the fuss was about. “Oh yes, that guy.” Compassion welled up for his suffering that made him behave so poorly. There was nothing I could do about it. So I let it drift away like the last clouds fading into a clear sky.

There was a slight luminosity in the back of my mind. I thought it peculiar that I found it easier to recognize upset than this quiet glow. So I relaxed into it.

In a while I winked out. When I came back the mind-heart was soft, quietly joyful, and expansive. And my body was fatigued.

It was 2:30 in the morning. I crawled back into bed and slid into sleep.

Where is my practice these days?

Years ago I would have been caught in that upset for weeks or months. I still get caught. Ask my wife. But it sticks for shorter and shorter amounts of time.

I figure this personality I built so diligently for so many years has done all the good it can. It’s kind of used up. I still carry around the neural wiring from neurosis and past experience. But I’m not attempting to fix myself as much as just trying to get out of the way: letting the heart-mind unwind itself. It’s so much smarter than me.

I seek to observe the mind without preference. I seek clarity and acceptance.