Tue 18 Oct, 2005 08:53 am
(An anonymous Buddhist #1) writes:
"I feel like my head will explode somedays. I keep looking for the answer, but it only seems to get worse. Can I be guilty of thinking too much?"
(An anonymous Buddhist #2) writes:
"I am so confused with trying to be a Buddhist. There are all sorts of ideas and schools. I'm ready to give up as my head hurts with so much information."
Whatever the area of mind abuse - a sick mind that is constantly busy cannot heal itself without rest. Too much thought is just as bad as too little. Sometimes we get caught up in regrets of the past or worries about the future. I discussed these topics in my earlier posts "Sticky Mind" and "Cultivating the Garden of Your Mind" I will not discuss those areas of thought abuse here since people complain to me my posts are already too long. I will only say that whenever I escape in the past or get lost in fantasies about the future, it reminds me to practice mindfulness and bring my thoughts back to the present. Computer and electronic gadget addiction seems to be rampant in society. All this electronic abuse gives us information and sensation overload. Instead of spending time relaxing our minds we constantly use it. What happens when you exercise a muscle too much? You over train the muscle and it breaks down and cannot recover until it is given time to rest and rebuild. I discussed this concept of mind rest and over stimulation in my pervious post 'Voluntary Solitude.'
Besides worrying about the past or the future, many of us are a slave to addictive and compulsive thinking in other areas. Sometimes these areas seem beneficial such as acquiring knowledge, but whenever there is excess the beneficial can turn deadly as well. Another issue is that of fear and pleasure. It is much more pleasurable being a 'student' than having to go out in the world and apply what we have studied for so long. We can keep being a student and hiding indefinitely, but when the time comes to graduate, this is the acid test of 'putting our money where out mouth is' and put our theories to the test of practical application. You see a lot of excessive and extreme thinking in Buddhist circles with "my Buddhism is better than your Buddhism" type of debate. Egocentricity and pride is not limited to Buddhism, other religions have the same problems. The other religions just don't have the habit of such mind numbing debate as the Buddhist have.
Academic types as well get their pride from such debates and who is the smartest. Academic smarts mean little to me - I prefer peace smarts. You see, some persons are 'too smart' to ever be at peace. They know all the answers and their god is their intellect. Just as money cannot buy happiness or buy peace neither can academic smarts. Remember, "a wise mans knows what he says and a fool can only say what he knows." This is echoed in the 12 step saying, "If you talk the talk you need to walk the walk." I've know many a philosophers in my time, most working to be perfectionists and a lot of them prefer studying, talking and debating but never quite get around to practical application when it comes to oneself. Is your interest in philosophy or debating a help or hindrance to your Buddhist practice? It is OK to study and train the mind, but when the word 'excessive' comes into play, that is the turning point when our training and studying becomes a hindrance. Either our actions promote out peace or destroys our peace - that is the bottom line.
The mark of a real philosopher is one that lives by their own philosophy. Without application, knowledge is useless. (Well, at least 99.9% useless. Knowledge without application is useful for one thing. It is useful for cluttering up the mind and providing a distraction to actually living life - instead of just thinking about it.) Always inquire how the person applies their 'theories' to living a life at peace. Everything I write to you about I can tell you in detail how I apply these tools to living a life at peace. This 'know what you say' by practical application in ones own life is something that many a philosopher cannot do. Yes, they know plenty of theories, they can give lectures on it, but when it comes to practical self-application to living a balanced and harmonious life many of them are lost.
Thoreau once noted that people inviting him to a dinner would get their 'pride' from how expensive and fancy a meal that could provide. He said on the other hand, he got his pride from how simple a meal he could make. We can get stuck and blinded with perfecting extreme views. This shows us where our pride is located - our pride is located in perfectionism. I see this a lot of spiritual practitioners that are of the "all or none" variety. They get stuck being perfectionists in the minutia while the rest of their life is out of balance. Where is my pride located? In short my pride is in living a balanced life within my comfortable means and at peace. My credo is: to live within my means, comfortably fit within my space and gratefully accept my current position in life. I argue with no one. If I have the truth, I keep it and use it and share it. If you do not want it that is OK, I make no demands you adopt it. If I am wrong and you have the truth I adopt it readily and now I have the truth as well. Wherever the truth is - that is where I go. This is not so just because people have the cleverest argument to prove the 'truth' of the day. The proof of the pudding is in the eating - arguing over the unanswerable is where many Buddhist loses their practice and their peace - they lose it in ego. Otherwise the spin doctors would be the ultimate gurus of the spiritual path and developing peace.
Spin doctors? Each religion has them to promote their brand of truth, so lets not just berate the Buddhists. For example, Vatican II resulted in some of the greatest changes in the history of the Catholic Church. A few changes were Catholics were now 'allowed' to pray with Protestants and attend weddings and funerals in Protestant churches. I'm sure a lot oft thinking want in to developing these prejudices, then much more thinking time was needed to reverse them. Psychologist William James once said, "A great many people believe they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." What is the truth? The truth is that which promotes peace within and with all. The truth is that which does not change. The humans beings mind continually changes - truth does not. I discuss this in my earlier post "Our Guiding Light...Prejudice or Truth."
Many time pride is equated with happiness. I can be happy for someone else without developing too much attachment or self pride for having them in my life. Once I start making comparisons and feel I am better than someone else for having something in my life better than they have the battle with pride starts. Meditating on impermanence or non existence helps me when pride starts getting out of hand. If not, my happiness start to become material based instead of spiritually based. Many people like to debate and discuss, but that is as far as they get and fall short of ever applying much of it in their lives to develop peace. Such a state is called analysis paralysis. They like spending their time debating the unanswerable, since it appeals to the ego and it is much easier to write about the path than actually follow the path themselves. I had to become practice based instead of ego based to find any success. My earlier post entitled "Finding Universal Truth" goes into more detail on this subject. Excesses of all sorts can blind us from actually living life in a mindful and present way. Here is a list of the benefits we derive from addictive habits. See is any apply to you and what benefit you get from excessive thought and debate.
The 7 benefits we derive from our addictions. (This list is abbreviated version.)
1) Pain Reliever
Addictions help distract us from our pain.
2 Pressure Relief
We use addictions to help blow off stream from stressed and unbalanced life we live though overextending ourselves to the point of breaking by living a lifestyle of "jugglers syndrome" and by having too many irons in the fire.
3) Time Filler
The devil finds work for idle hands - Thoreau. Many time I have heard an addict say they went to their addiction out of boredom cause they had nothing else to do to pass time.
4) Escape Vehicle
Addictions make great escape vehicles to distract us from our problems - most of what we have created for ourselves by living unbalanced lives. I try and catch myself when I practice this escapism and work to bring my thoughts back to the present. Whenever the fantasy starts I check to see what I am escaping from? Why do I fixate on something else instead of where I'm at?
5) Pleasure Vehicle
As sensation addicts we like the sensation we get when we participate in our addiction. It feels good to receive the brain chemicals or high I get when I participate in my drug of choice. In short, if it feels good I over do it and keep doing it until it turns into pain - then and only then I know I need to stop.
6) Mystical or Religious Experience
Yes, our addiction is our religion. All our addictions have pleasure aspects within them and we get rewards for participating in them in the form of euphoric experiences. Euphoric experience can be related to the spiritual as well. The definition of a religious mystic is one that partakes in an altered state of conciseness with God / god or the spiritual realm. Our addictions also give us this altered state of consciousness and feeling of euphoria. So, we can say that our drugs are our gods and our addiction is our religion. There is a reasoning to our madness - it is not just pure madness as most addicts think.
7) Death Sentence
Finally, if all else fails - addictions are great killers and destroyers of life. We hate the life we have created for ourselves and see no other way out.
Wang Ming writes:
"Too much knowledge leads to overactivity; better to calm the mind. The more you consider, the greater the loss. Better to unify the mind. Excessive thinking weakens the will. The more you know, the more your mind is confused. A confused mind leads to vexation..."
Wang Ming's feelings are mine as well. If you don't agree, then follow your path of excessive thinking, discussion and never ending debate of the unanswerable and see where that leads you? If it does not lead to a place of peace, then increase it and keep increasing it until you try the oopisite direction of less thinking. You do not have to please, me - you only have to please yourself. Remember, even though water and air are life sustaining they are also life destroying when in excess. This is the foundation of voluntary simplicity - seeking the golden mean of balance as the Buddha found by following the middle path. If you are still confused, you can always find the answer to a question by looking deep inside yourself and ask if the person, place, activity or thing promotes your peace or destroys it? And if you have no insight to what is inner peace - then you might try some relaxation of the brain and practicing mindfulness as a first step to finding it. My earlier post "Putting Peace First" goes into detail with this subject of peace awareness.
Here is a story about the mind and the senses.
"A crocodile, bird, dog, fox, monkey and snake were tied together with a rope and then let them go. Six creatures of very different natures. Each animal will try tog go back to its own lair by its own method. The snake will seek a covering of grass, the crocodile will seek water, the bird will want to fly in the air, the dog will seek a village, the fox the solitude ledge and the monkey will seek the trees of a forest. That the animals are connected by one rope, the strongest at any one time will drag the rest Man is tempted in different ways by the desires of his 6 senses; eyes, ears, nose, touch, tongue and mind and is controlled by the predominate desire. If the creatures are all tied to a post they will try to get free until they are tired out and then will lie down by the spot. Just like this if people will train and control the mind there will no further trouble from the other 5 senses. Once the mind is under control peace can be found."
We can get so bombarded with facts and theories that 24 hours in a day would not be enough to act on all of them anyway. So due to over complicating things people just give up. When we have an engine that is too complex and has 1000 working parts and 1 part goes bad...the whole engine shuts down and 1 thing kills the other 999. So it goes with too many demands we place on ourselves for happiness and contentment...1 thing kills the other 999. Voluntary simplicity or simple living helped me build a less complex engine with fewer parts to break down. Instead of 1000 parts, I now have only a handful of parts to manage. This simplicity applies with my life as well as my spiritual practices. The antidote to over thinking is not 'no' thinking, but just simplified, natural, relaxed and peaceful thinking. Let thought serve you and not you be a slave to thought. Excessive thought can distract us from 'right' thought as well. My main focus of my Buddhist practice is concentrated on the 3 pillars of Buddhism that are common to all schools of Buddhist practice: I've settled on the essence of Buddhism and that is what I work on and find much peace with this type of simplified practice.
3 Pillars of Buddhism
1- Practicing mindfulness and meditation to develop peace and self awareness of our own true nature.
2- Accepting the liberating wisdom of impermanence and practicing non-clinging and a lessening of craving and desires.
3- The development of compassion for others.
Buddhists are not required to believe or not believe in God, so anyone can make use of this philosophy irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. In addition to the 3 pillars, we can use the eightfold path to guide us. Within the 3 pillars and the eightfold path are a lifetime of practice. No need to get lost in perpetual debate and spend you precious time in idle talk that only serves to massage one ego. Plenty of work to do right here, right now, unless we prefer to keep our minds distracted through our perpetual complexities we are so addicted to. We do need to give some thought of the 'right' way to live as the eightfold path tells us, so we should never try and be devoid of thought in our lives, but instead look for a balance and let thought serve us for once. My previous post "Paying Homage to Charles Ponzi" goes into the topic of 'mental blindness' in more detail.
The Eightfold Path
1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
The anonymous Buddhist #1 that was quoted at the beginning touched on the answer in his statement, "I keep looking for the answer, but it only seems to get worse." This is an important lesson. If one direction does not work, try the opposite direction. In this case, try looking less. We can apply this 'law of opposites' to most of life's questions. And when coupled with putting our inner peace first as our guide, we will not be so bewildered as to what are the right and wrong ways to live. In the end peace will stem from balance in all areas of practice. The Buddha sets the example with this topic of 'idle talk' or the endless debate of the unanswerable with the story of the arrow. If you are not familiar with it, check it out and it might help you finally come to a place of satisfaction in your life.
Until you can come to 'satisfaction' with theories and concepts you can never be at peace. You will be in the category of concept collector and stuck in a place of analyses paralysis and always be looking and never finding. Others just chuck it all as 'too complex' and give up as Buddhist #2 wrote. How do I answer #2's despair? Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity as Thoreau wrote. The turning point is the day you stop looking and collecting and start actually practicing these concepts of spiritual living so you may live a life at peace. When you stop asking questions and can start giving answers as to how you live a life at peace...you are there.
"It is the mark of an educated mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision which the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness where only an approximation is possible." Aristotle
thats exactly what i needed to hear