How I get stuck when I try to watch my mind

The first step in working with mind is to develop mindfulness and awareness so I can become more aware of what is going on in my mind. This makes sense to me, because if I am not able to see how my mind is operating, how could there be any hope of changing how it operates? The teachings also say that that the most important aspect to watch out for is my motivation, because this factor determines whether an action is beneficial or harmful. However, when I try to train in watching my mind, I often get stuck.

An old blind man groping for his way with a cane, the image for ignorance in the Wheel of Life

Here is my problem: When I find myself distracted and try to put my attention back on my mind and try to become aware of my motivation, I usually hit a block. I ask “what is my motivation?,” and my mind replies, “What do you mean? I don’t know what my motivation is,” “I am just going along doing things that need to get done.” I have the idea that there is something called “motivation” hidden somewhere and that I need to find it. When my mind comes back with an evasive and vague answer, I feel that I failed to find my motivation. Often I don’t know how to get past this impasse and give up.

Lately I have found a different approach to this. I came to the conclusion that whenever I find myself unaware of what is going in my mind, I should just assume that it is doing its usual thing, which is going after pleasure, gain, praise and respect and trying to avoid pain, loss, criticism and getting a bad reputation. Rather than asking my mind what it is doing, I now work on the basis that most likely it is operating based on these eight worldly dharmas. I find this very helpful. I don’t need to start a full scale investigation into what is happening in my mind any more. I don’t need to feel I need to catch my mind in the act of doing something bad. I don’t need to blame. I can simply accept that when unsupervised my mind has the habit of following its self-centered habitual ways. It seems a good starting point to bring about change.

Over the coming days I want to reflect on how to best take this further to the next step. Any suggestions?

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2 Responses to How I get stuck when I try to watch my mind

  1. tineke peeters says:

    Hi Bernie,

    I’m stumbling on your and Sandra’s blog, and find it very inspiring, some sense of traveling along together, for which I thank you. I have myself been struggling with the same thing you mention in this blog, and just these last few weeks am arriving at some answer: if unattended, my motivation is simply non-existing; what is needed, is, each time my thoughts stray in the direction of motivation, to take an active stance and awaken the motivation that I can most easily connect with at that moment. The discovery is highly facilitated by listening to Patrick’s guided meditation on immeasurable love in the bodhichitta mengak pack, and specially the remark on integration. Combined with a few times in the day when my mobile strikes the hour with a sentence of the praise of bodhichitta. It doesn’t last long, I’m afraid, but at least it points the way. much love, Tineke

  2. Your posts make me smile!

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