it ain’t so; you can count on it

We’re continuing with The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton.  I’m trying to find the connection between Step Two: Set up your laboratory and a rationale for the practice as he’s teaching it.  I know you know.  You know I know.  I know that you know I know and vice versa.  But in a book that sets out to deal with the Trickster Mind, I really want Cayton to assume I don’t know!  But I’m going to trust his process and practice anyway hoping it leads to that pot of gold.

Reading the instructions for setting up the laboratory, I have a strong sense of Cayton’s corporate coaching persona coming through.  The language is very “go-get-’em” and the “ABC” breathing practice floats out there without much of an intention to anchor it.  I can infer the intention because I know from other experience that the practice holds promise; but it takes me away from my intention to hold a Beginner’s Mind.

The issue of “what is mind?” seems to be what he gets to in the third chapter.  How do I clarify my experience so that I can understand reality is what I create?  So, in the ABC, A is for anatomy; bring awareness to the areas of tension in the body.  B is for breathing; anchor yourself in the breath.  C is for counting (really); count the in- and out-breaths.  I can’t resist so let me infer that the sequence is to calm and steady internal turmoil.  In psychological circles, it’s a variant of progressive muscle relaxation blended with breathing to calm symptoms of anxiety.  Not a bad thing but a link to how this prepares “the laboratory” (presumably of body-mind) would have been helpful.

Enough about the book.  More about me practicing with the book.  Cayton explains that “disturbing emotions” have the power to “hypnotize us…so they become ‘reality’.”  This nugget is worth getting to and a powerhouse of energy is conferred when I work with it.  It also reminds me of Tara Brach’s use of the term “trance” in describing our habitual energies and auto-pilot.  I call it getting on trains that take us away from our experience in the moment; we believe escaping on the train as the reality because we think it’s safer or that we’re actually acting on the distress.

Later in the chapter, Cayton points out that our mind is very much like a video camera and TV screen running simultaneously.  Our sense organs (I’m interpolating) record the impingement of sensations which leaves a mental imprint.  And, at the same time, we’re layering our interpretation of the experience on that imprint.  Instantly, the process of logging the experience becomes laden with our bias, our preferences.  We create the world as we are.

And it ain’t so.  We can absolutely count on that.

what choice do you have?

It’s easy to make more of something than it is.  It’s easy to put a negative face on a person or situation to justify our anger, frustration, helplessness, and ultimately, our reactive actions.  

A couple of weeks ago, I made a phone call to an agency that, over the last 15 years, has referred people for psychological treatment.  I needed some paperwork sent for a particular client so they could take part in one of our programs.  The colleague I spoke with was embarrassed; she hedged around her answer and then blurted out, “You’re no longer on our provider list.”  She was upset about it, working on re-instating our clinic, but until then her hands were tied.  As the story wound out, it seems someone from my ignoble past has slid into my professional life with an agenda.  From what we could tell, this has been cooking for about four years and has ripened into action.

I spent a few days embellishing various fantasy scenarios of retaliation.  To give myself credit only one or two involved violation of the precepts.  Mostly, hunger strikes on the steps of the agency, opening a free clinic, and holding protest marches tended to be the flavour of my hit-backs.  Now before you go all Awwwww on me, let me point out that the ego is still quite rampant in the latter scenes despite the great Gandhi-like camouflage.  And then there were days of practicing one of the Shadow Fourth Noble Truths: Noble Outrage; I envisioned miles of needy patients snaking down hallways, winding out into the parking lots, and drifting in wounded aimlessness down the street.  I rarely worry about the closure of DVD rental places; there are ample life has uploaded into my mind. 

And then, in sangha, a friend asked what we were going to do to protect ourselves.  I responded, “Nothing yet.  It’s only been four years.”  True, there is potential in this situation for injustice, inconvenience, and the up-ending of projects waiting to be activated.  All of which to say, there is great potential for high drama and the tilting at windmills.  Yet once I strip away all the drama, faux-calls-to-social-engagement, and I call into play that powerful practice of patience, I’m left with a very different set of choices.

Reading The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton, it was good to see I’m not too far off base.  In the book, Cayton describes four steps to vanquishing the delusional mind.  Step One: You have a Choice!  I do absolutely have a choice.  There is a choice in viewing something as just what it is.  No more, no less.  As I sat with the not-doing, this was an additional realization: to narrow* our focus on the individual or the situation as it is now is the delusional process.  And no choice of skillful actions can arise out of that perspective.

Cayton sets up a four-step process of training the mind.  I don’t quite follow the set up of the book to see how the four steps match up with the chapters.  But maybe that is just my hobgoblin mind wanting a clear map.

Regardless, it doesn’t take away from the practice he describes and which I’ll explore this week.

* Edited 2012 May 21 @ 0941