Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Mind States

I am mindful that I have been craving chocolate cake pretty much all day long. I have come to know that I crave cake (particularly), cookies and other sweet, baked goods when I am feeling distracted by anxiety and/or feeling angry with myself. It was intensified by a chocolate ice cream cake being served at a potluck at work today. Watching people enjoy it I was mindful that I was alright with the bowl of fresh berries I had, they were very tasty, but that I should have brought a cookie for myself.

There's a mailing list maintained at Great Vow you can get added to and each week a Mindfulness Task will be sent to you. It is part of an experiment in a Year of Mindfulness that Chozen is writing about next. We're on week 7 and today I got this in an email from Kyoku:

This week our task concerns recognizing and working with mind states. Part 1 of our task is to check our mind states a few times during the day and identify our mood or predominant feeling tone. When we recognize a negative mood, part 2 of our task is to use creativity and practice tools to see if we can change negative moods (e.g., stressed, sad, angry, discouraged) to neutral or positive mind states (e.g., calm, creative, playful, generous).

What are some tools we can use to effect change? Some favorites that we have practiced with in other weeks include stop and breathe, Metta (loving kindness) practice, smile, take refuge in sangha – the company or counsel of excellent friends, exercise or do physical work, silly walking and of course meditation and investigation. How well do these work, especially in the moment? What works best for you in different moods and circumstances? We each need to be creative in working with our unique character and circumstances.

Remembering that mind states are continually changing and that each has value we are cultivating emotional intelligence. To use a mind state to its full advantage we must make effort first to be aware of mood, next to recognize the feeling tone and then gradually develop an understanding of how the mood arises and what works to transform it. This is freedom.

Just in time for me feeling cranky and angry with myself.

Last night I sat doing some zazen before lying down to sleep. I felt anxious, sad, and could get a sense of the swirling anger of my inner critic. I was stinging with having this anger pointed out to me. Being reminded how ridiculous and unfounded it is for me to be angry at myself or try to blame myself. It is so perversely comfortable to remain in the wash of anxiety than to let go of the belief that somehow I just could have worked harder, done a better job.

Back to basics of Metta practice, just focusing on myself. Breathing in compassion, breathing out loving-kindness. Still, present and seeking the source of the anger.

At least around the weight one thing presented itself in the silence. There is a part of my anger at my family for fostering disordered behavior towards food and body image. Mixed in that is more grief, more sadness for the child me who never had any chance to have a reasonable, healthy relationship with food. I feel set up by the adults in my childhood, set up to have become an obese adult - just like they all were. I feel sad, hurt by the reality that food, such a basic was just one more way in which my family was unsafe, unsupportive.

Chozen has said it to me again and again now. Metta is the only protection that is needed. It is the best tool I have at my disposal. I'm so good about sending Loving-Kindness outwards, but I just to have to keep it focused on me, that I am deserving of as much of it as there is.

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  1. I try to see self-directed metta more like filling an enormous internal reservoir. It is certainly wonderful for us to direct metta to others, and we can use some of our internal metta resources in this way, but isn't it ideal when we are doing so from a place of overflow. For myself, I know I have a lot more self-directed metta to go before filling that reservoir, and I see it as a strength and a blessing to HAVE such huge capacity. Thank you for sharing your practice.

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