I like walking my dog beacuse I like walking. And I like my dog. My dog is the happiest creature I have ever met (except for my daughter – up to the age of 4) even though he doesn’t even own a pair of pants.
I enjoy our walks also because I can be alone in nature. I am perfectly happy like that. But on one such occasion last week I thought about the work and I felt miserable. I thought to myself: am I stressed now on this beautiful Saturday evening because I have just discovered an immediate danger I need to avoid? Or is because my body is reacting to thoughts about past and potential threats as if they were real – simply because my brain hasn’t been taught to tell the difference?
On Friday and Saturday, I woke up at 2AM. Mornings are the worst. Immediately after I wake up, negative thoughts overwhelm me. I used to say Nembutsu to calm my mind. But what John Haspel says makes so much sense to me – if something wasn’t taught by Buddha, is it worth practising? Must Dharma be manipulated in order to be helpful? So I stopped saying Nembutsu. (Also – that awkward 35th vow!) When I woke up the other morning, I tried to occupy my mind with mindfulness, but my mindfulness was not strong enough. So I started repeating Noble Eightfold Path. Not as a mantra, to divert my attention, but as a reminder. And it worked. A few minutes of that helped me to remember Dharma. (How can I apply Eightfold Path in my life if I don’t know it? How can I understand the arising of suffering if I don’t know and understand the links of Depended Origination?)
On Sunday, I realised that I just could not go on like this anymore. Being stressed all the time. Not sleeping. I looked into my mind and saw fear and hatred, rejecting and clinging, the desire to control and fix things. Why won’t I simply trust the Buddha? Why won’t I let go? Why won’t I do what Buddha said? Instead, I try to resolve the problem of Dukkha my way.
Over the past few days more opportunities to feel stressed and worried… About things, I have no control over and which outputs I cannot know. Even though the voice in my head (not literally!) was shouting: “Think about it, think about it, find the solution, find the solution, prepare, prepare, prepare!”, I asked myself a question: are those thoughts skilful or useful, are they within the Eightfold Path? I felt such great confidence in Dharma that I simply abandoned them and rest assured that the advice Buddha gave is true. It was a bit like bungee jumping.
What I mean is I didn’t feel that I shouldn’t be thinking those anxious and stressful thoughts. Rather, that I don’t have to think them.
I don’t have to.