From the BlogMeet Ron


Dear friends,

One second you are aware of your breath as a vague expansion in your lower chest. The next thing you know you are mid-way through a revenge fantasy involving a burnt offering (badly scorched lasagna in this case, better not to ask …)

You know the drill: When you notice that you’re thinking, just say to yourself, “thinking” and then bring your attention back to your breath.

As a teacher, I often struggle to get across how incredibly amazing and ground-breaking it is to actually recognize thought in vivo – as they are unfolding in the present moment.

Because we do not just know that we are thinking, we are seeing how thought creates our personal experiential reality.

The Irish mindfulness blogger Karl Duffy gives the example of someone experiencing a recent break-up. He observes:

“Do you feel that gut-wrenching pain bubbling up from the center of your being? Yes – it’s all coming from your thoughts about the event in the moment. Not from her or him (although he or she was a jerk to do that to you). But from a thought.”

Thought torments us when we don’t see it thought as just thinking happening in the present moment, not as we mistakenly feel that s/he is the cause of our present pain.

The pain already happened, maybe long ago. But we experience afresh as if it is happening again now, through the trickery of thought!

Our meditation practice allows us to see how we’re presently creating this experience. And how at some preconscious moment we agree to participate in this virtual reality of our own creation.

We create this virtual reality as our thoughts spread out in an associative tangle, branching this way and that, creating a world which seems as real to us as a dream feels real while we are dreaming it.

What makes this mental creation problematic is we don’t recognize it as virtual. We get attached to it. We act on the basis of it. And it can lead to a great deal of suffering for ourselves and others.

We create vast worlds of past and future, and get lost in them.

We get lost in thoughts about what happened, about how we responded to what happened, about how we wished we had responded to what happened in some other way; about how we wished what happened had been different.

Sound familiar?

We get also get lost in thoughts about what we hope will happen, about how we hope it will play out, about how we hope we will respond.

We get lost in thoughts about what we are afraid will happen, about what else might happen if it does occur, about how we are afraid we will respond, about how we hope to respond.

And there are untold variations on these two themes of past and future!

These are endless narrative loops that play over and over in the mind, the trains of thought pulling out of the station one after another and taking us for a long ride down the track before we even know we’re aboard.

As we bring meditative awareness to our moment to moment experience, we recognize what is occurring right now is this nothing but a stream of mental events, often tethered to the past or the future.

With practice we can say internally “Oh here comes that stream of thought once again, the one that leads me to so much apathy and sadness”…or doubt, or lust, or conflict, or addiction, or whatever.

This process of recognition is captured beautifully by the poem “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson:

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

When we recognize we’re getting involved in a familiar pattern of thought that leads to trouble, the skillful thing is to let go, to walk around the hole. Or even better — to walk down another street.

When our mindfulness matures, we see the thoughts passing away without doing anything else.

So let’s keep practicing, for our own well-being, and for those of others.

Aloha, Tom, Katina and the kids

Speak Your Mind