Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What is our story in this moment?

Will the lady with the dog with pointed ears come up the steps to No.1 and ring the bell!!

I found this sign on this quiet footpath that runs behind some houses near where I live.  Please pause reading now and ask yourself, "What would I think if I was the lady with the dog?"

I walked past the sign and noticed the train of thought that ran.  Did they meet and have a conversation that the writer wants to continue.  Did the lady drop something, or to put it delicately, did the dog?

We'll never know. But it made me reflect again on the way we are constantly creating our world. That this created world depends on our mental states .  Maybe if I was feeling positive I would be more likely to fantasize briefly about the beginnings of a relationship.  If I was feeling grumpy I'd might guess that the writer wanted to complain about the dog's behaviour.... 

If I then dwell on this created scenario my mental states are likely to develop along the same trajectory; more positive or more negative and my world changes again.

This is a simple example of Co-conditioned production. ( Pratītyasamutpāda). It's not about simple cause and effect but a mutual co-conditioning that is happening all the time.  It also highlights the importance of staying to these processes.  The Buddha exhorts us to practice right effort. Which can be expressed as 

Develop positive mental states and maintain them.
Eradicate negative mental states and prevent them arising.

This kind of thinking is sometimes called mental proliferation (papanca) There's an interesting discussion by Leigh Brasington here and a rather technical exploration by Jayarava here.  

From the perspective of mindfulness as therapy, we can also talk about this as the secondary suffering which not only subjectively makes the first layer of suffering worse, it can also have effect on the objective content of the pain. See Breathworks mindfulness for more on this.

Now the Blessed One advised the bhikkhus - Well now, bhikkhus, my counsel is: experience is disappointing, [it is] through vigilance [that] you succeed. These were the last words for the Tathāgata.[The Buddha] 

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