Often times the people who have no introduction with Zen or Upnishadic philosophy struggle to grasp concepts like mindfulness. Often times the discussions revolve around practice and techniques that are very superficial.
Mindfulness and the self inquiry that mostly follows is a radical departure from how you normally use your mind. Normally there is a judge, an ego or an identity. And there is a defendant – the experience of present moment. If the experience is pleasant, the judge acquits the defendant and may even reward it. If the experience is stressful, conflicted, the judge is inquires about the crime and orders appropriate corrective measures.
In mindfulness, the roles are reversed. The experience is validated, is not guilty. The present moment is without blame. No matter whether you are having a stressful experience, negative emotions. No matter if there is a guilt or fear or shame. No matter if it feels like you cannot look at yourself in the mirror.
All is OK. You are allowed to experience it all. You are not required to struggle with it. You are not required to take corrective measures to ensure that the pleasant experience returns as soon as possible.
“I just failed in exam. Should I not take corrective actions?” Someone might ask.
I am not talking about taking corrective actions in physical world. I am taking about taking corrective action to make yourself feel guilty or stressful to motivate yourself to take corrective action in physical world. A part of you beating other part of you will never work right.
This is mindfulness. You can stop here. Or if you want, you can wander into self inquiry.
This beating part, this judge that is brought under lens in mindfulness based self inquiry. ” What laws you are applying? Are those valid? And by the way, Who are you?”
When this happens, we find something very interesting. Often times the hardest part of the experience is the struggle to fix it, the punishment that was handed to the experience. We operate under the assumption that the struggle is inherent to the experience.
But it doesn’t have to be.
You can feel pain and not struggle with it. And not having to do the struggle gives you a lot of space and lot of spare strength. If you count this in, we all have enough strength to deal with the stuff life throws at us.
But then why do we make a habit of this struggle? A psychology experiment I read comes to mind.
Researchers placed three rats in three boxes. In each box there was a lever to pull and a hole to drop a piece of cheese in.
In the first box, every time when a rat pulled the lever, the researcher dropped the cheese. Very soon rat knew that it can get cheese any time just by pulling the lever.
In second box, no matter what rat did, cheese was never dropped. Very soon the rat realized that nothing happens when they pull the lever. So it stopped pulling the lever.
In the third box, when the rat pulled the lever, the cheese was dropped randomly. The rat couldn’t quite figure out when the cheese drop happens and when it doesn’t. Result? The rat kept pulling the lever even when the researcher did not drop cheese for long time, almost till it fainted.
Intermittent reinforcement. This is how obsessions are formed.
Every now and then the judge and the judgement works in our mind. Every now and then the mental strategies of ego, like fear and guilt produce the desired outcome. That gives a false illusion of control and we keep on perpetually pulling the lever. Perpetually running the lawsuit. Perpetually suing the experience.