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Looking at Thought in Meditation: How We Learn from Getting Caught

There are some parts that are so hard or so strange that you can’t fathom what is under them. The sheer fact of those parts even being touched gently can cause confusion.

It can provoke resentment  and action, whatever habitual action or thought you have always had. It generally involves a feeling of self-hatred, maybe shame. From the moment you are touched in this spot, things go quickly. Maybe you cry or spew words after a brief instant of hotness. That instant is when we can try to maintain awareness of the feeling in the body or the thoughts that we don’t even realize are occurring. Wherever you are at that moment, make an attempt to be OK with it. Maybe you just notice “I am caught” or as Pema Chodron says, 'hooked'.

I had one of these moments recently during an otherwise unimportant interaction with my partner. I was mostly struck  by how confused I felt. The reaction I was having didn’t feel like MINE, yet I was responsible for how I chose to act. My body temperature rose and I wanted to slam things around. OK, maybe I did rattle a few things. I noticed a distinct feeling that I could not let it go. “Why? Other people can let this thing go? Why am I crazy? Why am I mean?” And then the justifications start to surge. The justifications that allow me not to let it go. CAUGHT!

Something I have enjoyed about learning and teaching meditation at IDP Seattle, is that it works subtly to show you things, or as Sharon Salzberg says, it’s like “turning the lights on in the attic." Our minds are like houses with many cluttered rooms to explore. Our mistakes are a big way to start to turn our attention to the peels in the wallpaper and the stacks of old post-it notes on the desk. What coat of paint did the wallpaper cover over? What notes have we left for ourselves? 

“…the people I have hurt, the mistakes I have made, the damage to myself and others, wasn’t poor judgment; it was the place where love had hardened into loss.” Jeannette Winterson Why be Happy When You Can Be Normal?

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