When you’re suffering, the only thing you can think about is how to end it.
In moments when you feel lost, confused, or angry, the mind begins to spin incredibly detailed plans about what you should say or do to alleviate the unpleasantness and set your life straight.
Problem is, these rarely work. We may have the perfect response prepared for a friend who’s hurt us, down to every last detail (including inflection and pauses) only to discover they’ve had a change of heart and come to us asking forgiveness. We may dream of travelling to a new place where we’ll leave our worries behind, only to discover when we get there that we’ve transposed our misery onto a new background.
Even after observing its failure to make good on its promises, we cannot help but be lured into the illusions the mind holds before us.
At a certain point, though, perhaps we begin to wise up to its tricks. We might start thinking that maybe we could make it shut up, or mould it into something that will spin out positive, productive advice instead of criticism all the time.
Ah, but you must be very careful here. Just when you thought you’d finished with its deceptive tricks, the mind pulls its trump card: it offers itself up as an object to repair. It says “I know I’m problematic. And you know what we do with problems? We fix them.”
If you get taken up in that game, the mind has set you up chasing the one thing that can never be done, where its continued influence over you is guaranteed.
This is why fighting the mind is like trying to escape from quicksand: the more you struggle against it, the more it sucks you in.
Escaping quicksand is actually quite easy: you only need to understand its nature. Once you realize that your body is less dense than the sand, all you have to do relax, and you’ll float to the surface.
Similarly, to escape mind’s traps, we need to first understand that it’s always seeing things in terms of right/wrong, black/white, happiness/suffering, and that it has its preferences about which side of things it wants to wind up on.
It wants to see things turn out one way to the exclusion of the accompanying opposite, failing to grasp how it cannot have one side without the other.
The problem is not that we haven’t found a suitable solution to handle the unruly mind. The problem is continuing to think in terms of problems and solutions in the first place.
With slow, deliberate motion, you can rotate yourself to float on the mind’s surface without getting sucked in. You understand, as the Buddha taught, that dissatisfaction, pain, separation are simply part of life, and that we generally cause more problems when we try to flee and escape these realities. The original pain is amplified by our reactions (like feedback).
I write this, as I do all posts, to remind myself of certain truths that I can easily forget. These past weeks, I’ve been repeatedly sucked down into illusions of how to make things better, which has made me redouble my efforts to reform the mind that holds out such empty promise.
These words help to remind me that freedom is within reach… if only I stop lusting after freedom and see that freedom and slavery, like contraction/expansion, truth/untruth, light/darkness, form a larger whole.