Mind Moments (written 2005)
Reading from Flower Ornament Sutra: “In each moment of mind/Are infinite lands produced...”
Mind moments. I've been observing this lately. How a mind moment can produce a whole infinite land. Different lives, different endings. Some spring into the future from this very time and place, and others sweep in like storms from the past, triggered by that futile lightning flash of thought: “if only”. In moments of great weariness, the lands I produce in mind moments are beastly. Like some of the verses this sutra goes on to list. Made of dirt, or worse. Pain and suffering. But then a sunbeam or a Lexy-kiss from that darling Newfoundland dog I think of as my own, a devilish grin from my big 12 year old as he teases me, dimples flashing, or a note from my husband “I love you. Take a nap.” Those can lift me into other kinds of lands.
The truth, however, is they're all equally ephemeral. Products of mind. Chemistry and mood. I remember the existentialists that appealed to me in my twenties. The absurdity of all of this. Yes. It is absurd. To recognize the ultimate futility of so much of our effort. But there's something deeper.
A character from Ursula Le Guin's novel The Dispossessed says something like: “Suffering is a misunderstanding. The place where the self ceases.” But when I look at my own experience I see the contrary here. I see that suffering is a misunderstanding that begins where the self begins. So that when I touch that place where the self ceases, I step out of suffering and perhaps, looking back, catch a glimpse of how it came about. I was disappointed. I was hurt. I hurt another. I yearned. And I could not let this be, let this go. So I cherished it and called it “me”.
All of us, we human beings, do this. This is merely our humanity. Soft bodied mortals with feelings more tender still, we live in a world with edges. The physical bumps we may not be able to avoid. But we gradually learn, if we are honest and attentive, that psychological pain, whether deep or trivial, is inflicted by edges we have honed ourselves. Since we crafted them, we know where they are. With awareness, determination, and persistence, we might be able to wend a safe path between.
In reflecting on the mind moments that set me reeling, heedless of what's in my path, I've found my own early storm warning system. When the voice of the inner narrator slips into the “if only's” and the “what if's”, I know it's time to turn down the volume and move more carefully, into the infinite land of “what is”.