Monday, October 5, 2009

Choosing Our Thoughts

If you are reader of Buddhadharma Magazine perhaps you have noticed this piece of artwork (or not!). It's one of my paintings but as an observant fellow blogger noted it had no credits. Problem rectified. Buddhadharma will kindly include the credits in their next issue.

Enough ego fluffing. This morning after I did my meditation the thought popped into my head, "if I'm energy having a human experience, why don't I make it a more balanced experience? I have a choice of where I turn my mind, don't I? Do I always need to head straight to supermarket of life aisle that stocks mainly suffering? Why don't I turn down the aisle filled with grateful, generous, & upbeat a little more often?"

Just a little reminder that I do have a choice. A reminder that the old habitual tendencies need a little attention sometimes, a little dusting, perhaps some serious scrubbing, maybe a little carpentry? Perhaps this thought was prompted by seeing a clip on BBC World News that it was the 4oth anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus. One of the clips showed Eric Idol nailed to a cross singing "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life". Nothing like a little craziness to get you to sit up and pay attention.

It's always an interesting question for me because suffering exists. Denial is more appropriately a river in Africa than something applied to our life situation. Suffering allows us to see what we do and change, if that's appropriate. And sometimes suffering just is (the first noble truth), no action required. There is a compassionate side of suffering as the Buddha pointed out. It is the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. Not to be confused with the suffering that leads to more suffering. Same product, different aisles. The second one definitely requires the clean-up in aisle 7 announcement.

But I find it so important to remember (in fact I forget this a lot) that the whole picture contains a lot of variation. Life is rich and full of many moments of wonder and joy and sheer delight (not to mention a few moments of equanimity). We can be prone (read that as I can be) to forget this, to not notice, and wrap the whole parcel up tightly with strands of suffering. The little tinselly, shiny bits of joy get buried. Simple choices of language can make a difference. In a course called "Awakening Joy" someone once suggested that the simple change of words from "I have to" to "I get to" made a big difference in her day. She replaced "I have to go the the grocery store" to "I get to go to the grocery store". Small children in their innocent wisdom often embrace daily tasks with that kind of gusto for life, a gusto that feeds our energy instead of depleting it.

And while some thoughts just arrive, fully formed in our pointy little heads, we do have the choice of whether we entertain them or set them loose. We can question, let go or redirect our thoughts. We can turn them upside down and inside out. We can plant new ones and have a whole new nursery of little thought seedlings. We are the head gardeners in our strange little minds (ridiculous pun intended).

So that's it for the shopping trip and gardening project today kids, we're clipping the "choice coupon" when it comes to thinking and we're getting coconut ice cream, not cod liver oil. When we're done we'll have a big bowlful while we watch those seeds of contentment sprout.


  1. "Do I always need to head straight to supermarket of life aisle that stocks mainly suffering?" :) I like this question. Thing is of course being able to know which aisle stocks mainly suffering - not always an easy task itself. Sometimes, repeat "shopping" is needed to get a clear taste of the goods.

  2. Thank you - Switching aisle right now:)

  3. Congratulations on the published artwork. Good thing the credits will follow in the next issue.

    Suffering definitely prompts a closer look at our habits and helps us move toward change.

    Choices ... that is sometimes hard to keep in mind, but definitely good to remember.

    I like the idea of switching "have to" with "get to". Thanks for that note.