Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Illusion of Time

I am very afraid of dentists. I would rather give birth again than to sit in a dentist's chair. One of my earliest childhood memories is of being tortured by a dentist. I can honestly say that was my first experience with real pain, and it was delivered by a total stranger. Obviously I've never been able to completely let that go. I'm not that six year old anymore, but I share her memories to this day.

A couple of weeks ago I decided a tooth that had been nagging me probably needed a filling or something. I made an appointment, gathered what courage I could, and sat in that chair. Everything would be alright soon, right? Wrong! Turns out that the tooth in question must be removed! Pulled!! Extracted!!! Enter the pounding heart, racing mind, sudden inability to draw a full breath. Panic began to squeeze me. I assumed that "Dr. Doom" (poor guy) would do the deed right then and there. Trapped like a rat! How quickly we can be transported straight to the gates of hell, if only in our mind. At any rate, I was given a temporary reprieve when they scheduled the dreaded next appointment for two weeks from then. That gift of time expires TOMORROW MORNING! But that's too soon - I'm not ready!

It's interesting how our perception of time is so closely related to and altered by our attraction or aversion to whatever happens to be approaching. When it's something we want or like time seems to stand still. If, on the other hand, it is something we don't want then time shifts to warp speed. We know this isn't true, but it sure feels that way.

This has been one of those situations when a particular teaching suddenly strikes a very real cord. I have read the Pabbatopama Sutta, The Simile of the Mountain, many times before. Good story, no doubt, but it remained just that. I got it but didn't get it. Not really. Out of ignorance and delusion - clinging to the memory of a memory - I have neglected to properly care for my teeth. It's just that simple. Time marches on whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. Procrastination proves to only create even more difficulty, as the clock continues to tick. Of course all of this dentist business pales when compared to what is steadily closing in on all of us. The tooth will come out, I will survive and feel foolish for having created so much unnecessary suffering for myself. And all the while the clock will continue to tick off the minutes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Training the mind to be quiet can seem to be an impossible task. It reminds me of a toddler who resists all efforts to get it to settle down. Often we can only watch until it finally runs out of steam and drops. Then we are able to gently pick it up and put it to bed. In children the "monkey mind" tends to show itself mainly by physical action, to an observer anyway. As adults, while we may appear to be calm and collected, all too often nothing could be farther from the truth. Internally there is usually way too much going on.

For some reason, this mind charged into the new year full of plans, ideas, opinions, places to go, things to do...Ooohhhh noooo! Where did this come from? Without realizing it I had been following the thing around for weeks, picking up every little thing that tickled it's fancy. Exhausting! Finally - thankfully - the momentum began to slow and that unexpected burst of erratic energy was spent. Only now can I reflect on this, while the mind is settled again. I understand that this state of relative calm and clarity is only temporary.

So, what can be learned? Can the duration, intensity, and resulting disruption be lessened in the future? What were the warning signs and how is it that I did not notice them? Or did I just dismiss them? Once I became aware of what was going on, did I apply too much pressure or not enough. The answers lie in the fact that this kind of energy is simply mind chasing after things, like an animal attracted to something shiny. When I think of it that way I can't help but just smile and nod. It is a matter of distractions that once again lured me in. Mind indulging in these things that arise. Reaching for the shiny trinkets. This is easier to see and understand now that the "monkey" is taking a break. Whether or not I will remember this lesson the next time remains to be seen.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dhamma Diary

Recently I stumbled upon a new blog that I found to be quite wonderful. It was just started by Tahn Manapo, who is a monk in the Thai Forest Tradition. He is at the Forest Hermitage with Luangpor Khemadhammo. The blog is Tahn Manapo's Homepage. "Dhamma Diary" will be updated on each observance day. I think you might find a visit well worth the time.

Monday, January 7, 2008


The holiday season has come and gone once again. I finally have all of the decorations and boxes put away, and the house pretty much back in order. From all outward appearances everything is "normal" again. A good time was had by all and I'm not any more in debt than I was before the whole thing started. Hooray!

But the busyness of the last month or so was a major distraction for me. More accurately, my initial reactions and responses were the true distractions. It was stressful. "Good" stress in many ways, but stress all the same. My daily meditation gradually became more and more abbreviated, relocated, interrupted and postponed...until finally it was just lost in the shuffle. There was a continuous stream of family and friends - and even a few strangers (to me anyway). This sort of traffic doesn't happen very often at my house. I realize that I had, over time, created a bit of a safety bubble around my practice. A comfortable and quiet time and place where I am in control of my own schedule and whims. Suddenly I was feeling very unfocused and scattered - my bubble had been breached! This was not good...

The frustration turned out to be short lived as I fortunately remembered Ajahn Chah's teaching that if we have time to breathe we have time to meditate. And so, instead of where and when and how I wanted, it was wherever, whenever and often only for the time it takes to be with a single breath. Sweet refuge in the midst of a world of distractions.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


It had been quite a while since I'd hit one of those slippery spots. You know, the mental patches of ice that we don't see in time. A brief lapse in mindfulness and, well, there you are. Upon reflection I can see that there were clear warning signs - there usually are. Often they are of a physical nature. The body picks up on hazardous conditions beginning to form and sounds an alarm. I remember hearing Ajahn Sucitto speak about this mind/body connection, but obviously the teaching had not really sunk in. I'm beginning to have a better understanding.