Escaping the seduction of the mind
zen monastery day 9 reflections
This is the second post about staying at a Japanese zen monastery. The first post is here.
A mental image arises as I meditate. In it I am walking down a tunnel of colored bands. The times when I am present in the moment appear as yellow bands. The times when I am lost in thought appear as black bands, as if lost in space.
I feel like Neo in The Matrix and all my thoughts are Agent Smiths. The agents can sense when I have awoken to the present moment. They come at me, attacking. Their aim is to completely absorb my attention into them so that I return to the matrix, aka the fantasy world of my thoughts.
I am present while having this fantasy, cognizant of my mind chatter while maintaining awareness in the present. But eventually the agents win and I become immersed thinking through travel plans.
When I reawaken to the present moment, to the yellow band, there is a large band of black space behind me.
My goal is to maintain continuous attention in the moment. The biggest obstacle is the near irresistible temptation to engage with arising thoughts.
I've escaped out of the present moment and into my mind my whole life. Now I am trying to undo this habit. Most of the thoughts surfacing are egoic dribble, but that doesn't keep me from being entranced by them.
When I can't seem to stop engaging with thoughts, I ask myself: "Why is this moment not enough?"
My mind quiets and grows curious.
At this present moment I am staring at the wood bannister in the zendō, feeling my breath move in and out. The moment is spacious, utterly serene. It feels like I am in the hallway of the Buddha.
And yet... this state of being does not satisfy my ego. My ego wants to neurotically circle fantasies of the future and pick at past mistakes. It wants to rehearse for moments that will never come.
The key move here is to breathe into a release of the ego's grasp while being present. It's quite the jiu jitsu move, and one that I fumble with. But at least now I see the lay of the land.
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