Neither block your thoughts nor chase after them

Today, I would like to share more advice by Mingyur Rinpoche on how to deal with thoughts and emotions, that he gave in the context of the exercise from his book The Joy of Living, which I described in my last post. He wrote:

“The point of the exercise is to simply watch everything that passes through your awareness as it arises out of emptiness, momentarily appears, and dissolves back into emptiness again—a movement like the rising and falling of a wave in a giant ocean. You don’t want to block your thoughts, emotions, and so on; nor do you want to chase after them. If you chase after them, if you let them lead you, they begin to define you, and you loose your ability to respond openly and spontaneously in the present moment. On the other hand, if you attempt to block your thoughts, your mind can become quite tight and small.

This is an important point because many people mistakenly believe meditation involves deliberately stopping the natural movement of thoughts and emotions. It’s possible to block this movement for a little while and even achieve a fleeting sense of peace—but it’s the peace of a zombie. A completely thoughtless, emotionless state is a state devoid of discernment or clarity.

If you practice allowing your mind just to be as it is, however, your mind will eventually settle down on its own. You will develop a sense of spaciousness, while your ability to experience things clearly, without bias, will gradually increase. Once you begin to watch these thoughts, emotions, and so on come and go with awareness, you’ll start to recognize that they are all relative experiences. A happy thought is distinguished by its difference from an unhappy thought, just as a tall person may be distinguished as “tall” only in relation to someone who is shorter. By himself, that person is neither tall nor short. Similarly, a thought or a feeling can’t, in itself, be described as positive or negative except through comparison with other thoughts. Without this kind of comparison, a thought, a feeling, or a perception is just what it is. It has no inherent qualities or characteristics, and can’t be defined in itself except through comparison.” (p. 67-68)

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