(Just dust in the wind, dude)
A few months back, I had a powerful feeling of nostalgia. Before our daughter was born my wife and liked to play computer games: Halo, Diablo 2, Age of Empires (my wife always play as the Japanese 😉 ) and so on. Once my daughter was born though, we totally stopped.
Then, a few months ago I really, really wanted to play Diablo 2 again. I wasted hours reading about it on the Internet and I planned to buy it again for my computer. I was just so excited to play the game again, but I didn’t want to spend money, so I decided to wait a few more weeks until payday.
But then, when payday came, I forgot all about Diablo 2. Before, I was obsessed with it, but after a few weeks the feeling was just gone.
The Buddha taught that all things arise and then fade. If it arises for any reason at all, it will fade sooner or later. Anything at all: people, trends, planets, empires, emotions, sensations, whatever.
When something arises though, it’s very real and “right there”. At the time, it’s hard to ignore and its hard not to react to it. If it’s something you like, you want more, if it’s something you don’t like, you want to get away from it. After it fades, though, it loses its power. So we spend our lives getting pulled along and pushed around by the things that arise in our lives, our in our minds. Sometimes desire, sometimes aversion. No wonder we are so tired and jaded sometimes! And you can’t fix it with sleep either because your mind is also getting pulled along while it’s dreaming.
So the Buddha taught the importance of cultivating concentration. It’s the last item in the Noble Eightfold Path, and is the main tool used in meditation. Concentration just means building up more and more alertness (what most Buddhists call “mindfulness”) so that you don’t get pulled back and forth by all the things you encounter in life, or by the destructive thoughts in your head.
Meditation isn’t like a bizarre state of mind, it’s not about “emptying” your mind, or anything. You don’t have to be a New Age hipster either. It’s just that you train yourself not to react to everything in life like a reflex. It strengthens your mind so that you can think more critically.
Once you start doing that, you’ll see that most feelings and thoughts and things that happen to you will fade on their own. No suppression or anything, they’re just gone. It’s like being able to ride out a storm rather than getting swept along by it.
For fans of the old Dune series in science-fiction, this might remind you of the Litany Against Fear which the characters sometimes recited to themselves:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”
This is captured in this famous scene from the 1984 movie, Dune around 2:50:
In the same way, learning to develop the mind through meditation (in the broad sense, not just sitting on a cushion), one also can allow things like fear, aversion, greed and such to just pass over you.
You’d be surprised how many problems you can solve that way. 😉
P.S. Youtube video above is from the hilarious 80’s movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.