Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grumbling Mind Meets Grateful Mind

Today I got to look at grumbling mind.  It was not big grumbling, but more a series of little grumbles .... the barking dog, the truck parked across the driveway from the house next door, the cat scratching the couch again and yada yada yada ....

 And by the time I headed out to do the too many errands in too little time I was grumpy for no good reason.  I  added "my grumpiness"  to the list of  what was wrong and then went Bingo! "what IS wrong with this picture?"  As kids we used to hear "it's all in the way you hold your mouth." And as I told my partner this he said maybe it should be "it's all in the way you hold your mind."

As we drove to pick up a cake and birthday gift for my mother on a fine day, in a fine city, where we are both well and want for nothing,  I remembered that in the "Awakening Joy" course  I took last year, Jane Baraz talked about the gratitude journal she keeps.  "I should do that." I said.  It would orient me to look at the good things in my life, rather than the habitual tendency to face in the direction of the small irritations.  It would be a helpful way to build wholesome mind habits rather than just slop into lazy complaining mind.  
There has been lots written about gratitude lately.  Brain researcher and Buddhist practitioner, Rick Hanson (from talks about the fact that the mind is inclined to give more attention to the negative .... This apparently is based on our origins as hairless little creatures out on the savannas where we needed to sit up and pay attention to the negative to survive.  The blissful were weeded out in the evolutionary process.  For this reason it takes a concerted turning of the mind toward gratitude to encourage a positive mental outlook.  We need to "grasp our will" as my friend the Zen monk calls it and look up, instead of down.  In Kosho Uchiyama's book that I'm reading called  "Opening the Hand Of Thought" he says, "You should always bear in mind that all sentient beings are suffering. Everyone is fretting about something inside their head.  That is why we practice."  And so as part of this practice I will choose to cultivate a little patch of gratitude.  I have the seeds, right here.  All I need to do is scratch a little place for them in the mental terrain, add a little water and watch for something to sprout.  I can taste the fresh flavour of gratitude already.  What are you grateful for today?

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