26 January 2008

Wisely Distracted


A great spiritual thinker (whom some consider the 'teacher's teacher'),Krishnamurti,
often replied to students with questions.

This has struck me as interesting given that Krishnamurti cautions against the pit-falls of over-questioning in life. We question and doubt ourselves quite enough already thank you.

Thus, Krishnamurti questions anything that renders us mind-less. For this mindlessness is not the realm of eastern philosophies, but the very trap from which we must all escape.
Meditation itself can become an act of carelessness - if it is done habitually and ritualistically.

If, in finding ourselves lost! (what good fortune) - one hour, one moment, one year and, in utter despair we fling ourselves rather carelessly into the hands of a 'legitimate' helper - priest, lama, rabbi, psychologist - to lead us, we may find ourselves, quite tragically, riding shotgun in the vehicle of our own life.

Gautama Buddha, Buddhism incarnate, encouraged people to be 'a light unto themselves', to look inward in order to walk their path, and live the human condition, in a way that undertakes to be less harmful to oneself and others. Life is an investigation and we are to live as a mind scientist, or a cultural anthropologist, in order to free ourselves through awareness, from mis-perceptions.

Buddhism advises us to observe our distractions. Distraction, and its corrolary, avoidance, are limbos where we all roam. Like patients with short term memory we return again and again to negative patterns, not sure why. Shopping malls and internet chat rooms and the amazing Stumble, all keep us as concubines of forgetfulness. There we 'are' - disengaged from the circumstantial tornadoes that threaten peace in our daily lives.

How then can distraction work in our favor? Are certain kinds of distraction better suited for healing? With the alchemy of skillful means, can
distraction acquire transformational power?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Tulku Thondup, in his gentle and loving book, The Healing Power of Mind, speaks to a misunderstanding about the use of distraction and avoidance. Participating in a positive experience directly following a negative experience serves to replace, or override the previous and potentially psychological or 'soul' trauma that would otherwise ensue.

Tulku Thondup names it as a process of avoidance:
"Sometimes avoidance is the best approach for past hurts. Even if you have a residue of pain, the effect may be diminished if the negative experience is followed by a strong positive one. In that case, the problem may be somewhat neutralized. Then, instead of re-creating the problem, it is probably best to just go on the with the positive experiences."
Artful distraction where even the act of watching a powerful and moving film,for example, if the viewer is deeply engaged with the characters and so impacted, may effect similar transformation.

It works.

I followed-up a disastrous relationship with a mind shattering trip to Eastern Asia. Miraculously, pain that might have taken years to reconcile otherwise, took on another form. (As the saying goes, it takes as long to recover from a relationship as was its duration). Feelings of rejection, a sense of loss, and the entire act of grieving the small death of being separated from a loved one, morphed into a positive experience. Grief was decoded with a deeper awareness of human suffering - and in this occurred a brilliant transformation of pain into joy.


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