Big Mind (written 2000)
Mornings on school days are chaotic from the time I wake the boys until they get on the bus. They are either tired and grumpy with me and each other, or giddy and goofy, unable to focus on any task: eating breakfast, dressing, putting on boots! It is a cycle of prodding and helping and hurrying them along and too often I feel frazzled and angry along the way.
Meditation is teaching me to breathe and look closely during these ordinary times.What do I notice about my feelings when I look closely? Just the volume level and physical play...pushing, hollering, laughing, goofy voices...are abrasive to me in the mornings, my “favorite” time of the day. When left to my own devices, I choose silence, walking, reading, meditation, solitude in the morning. There is pain and loss here beneath the anger as I experience the contrast between what I want and what is. My preferences are not being met. If/When I lose control and am not able to let the intention to chastise them arise without acting on that intention, then I add the emotional tone of blame, feeling immediately guilty for my outbursts.
I am learning, though, about big mind. The “I” who experiences the anger and the guilt is like a closed fist. Big mind is like an open hand.
In opening in this way, and continuing to look closely, I see how much more often (though not always, alas) I am capable of equanimity at these times. Irritation arises, it runs like water over that open hand and it falls away. I let it go, moving on through the steps in getting ready for the day without feeling personally “attacked” by child energy, boistorousness and indifference to schedules. I am often now even able to hear in my head the voices of my own childhood (“be on time”, “stay on task”) and not act on these directives nor feel less for not having done so.
Anger is an interesting phenomenon. When “buttons” are pushed, I see others as doing this to me and my mind narrows around the need to reassert control, to stop the behavior that is triggering my anger. When I can (and it's difficult) pull back and open to big mind, I feel a sense of relief and calm. “I” am no longer under attack and instead of feeling anger, I see the constant shifting of thoughts and feelings in any interaction.
Strangely, even pleasure can be a button. When my wants are met in a warm memory or happy moment, and I hold tight, I am immediately resentful of interrupting thoughts or needs. Again it is opening to big mind that allows the moment or memory to arise, treasures it, but lets it slip into the next moment as it must. In fact, when I cling to pleasure, narrow in and hold tight, I lose it more quickly to the unpleasant in irritation or anger or regret.
Narrowing in leads to judgement of self and others. I want to “fix” what I am or what someone else is. And suffering then comes as a sense of defeat or pointlessness or sorrow. If I am able to shift to big mind, this does not occur because I allow the feeling or thought to flow through rather than creating a person (me or other) to blame and fix.
Narrowing in is conducive to fear too. I can create whole scenarios when I narrow in, especially regarding my kids: fear for their safety, fear for their futures, their health and their happiness. Big mind prevents this chaining although, I admit, this is the hardest one yet for me, the place where “I” and “mine” take root most readily.
Sometimes people come to meditation as a form of stress relief, rather than thinking about spiritual growth. But practising with opening to big mind makes it clear to me that these are not separate intentions or purposes at all. Learning to notice when I narrow in and learning to move as far as I am able into big mind gives me both a sense of unity with all that is and the immediate experience of a sweet release from negativity, anxiety and pain.