Aug 26, 2008
Healing the mind’s wounds
How do we heal wounds in the mind? Author and performer Vimalasara offers advice, and a poem. (Vimalasara’s online course, based on her book Detox Your Heart, starts September 3, 2008).
Every time we have a thought tinged with ill will, jealousy, anger, hatred or revenge, we are self-harming, and we are causing a wound to the mind. Whether the thought be about ourselves or another being, or an inanimate object, we are injuring the mind.
Lama Rangdrol, at a talk in the Bay Area, spoke about how we don’t even trust that our minds will heal when we injure them. He said when we cut our hand, we find some ointment, and a band aid, and trust that it will heal, but we never trust our minds will heal when we have dark thoughts, or fall into depression.
I went away from this talk reflecting on what was the ointment and the band aid for the mind, and I realized it was metta: The practice of loving kindness. It was the meditation that the Buddha gave to his disciples who while meditating in the forests came running back to there teacher crying: “There are monsters, ghouls and evil spirits out there.” The Buddha smiled, calmed them and taught them the metta bhavana, the practice of friendliness, the release of the heart, which shines forth, blazes and penetrates all beings. Loving Kindness. He sent them back into the forest and not one monk returned out of fear. They had healed their minds.
Before we can soothe our minds and heal our minds, we must begin to slow our lives down so we can hear our thoughts.
The Buddha taught pain, and the cessation of pain. He gave us many formulations and methods to work with the pain. Metta, part of the four immeasurables, or the sublime abodes, is one of these methods.
Before we can soothe our minds and heal our minds, we must begin to slow our lives down so we can hear our thoughts. We must learn to allow our thoughts to arise and cease. We must learn not to hold on to our thoughts, or chase our thoughts like a child who is chasing his or her kite. We must learn not to dwell in our thoughts. We must trust the essence of the Buddha’s teaching, the universal law: “This being, that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises; this not being, that does not become; from the ceasing of this, that ceases.” This is the universal law of conditioned co-production.
In simpler terms we must trust that everything is impermanent, that things are always changing. If you tried to count your thoughts you would be amazed at how many thoughts you have in half an hour, and how many thoughts you try to hold on to.
Metta is one of the ways we can begin to soothe our thinking.
This is my reflection for the summer and fall months. I offer this poem, which I wrote some time ago. With Loving kindness,
Advice For Your Anger
There is nothing worse than seeing flaming red
With Butterflies churning away in your stomach.
And your body has ignited into a blazing fire
Extinguishing all the love in your heart.
It’s a warning. Your mind is full of toxic passion.
It’s your bull inside your head, charging with raging anger.
And when your body is consumed with anger
You need to stop when the stars before your eyes are red.
You need to realize that you’re not in control of your passion
If you can feel your breath palpitating inside your stomach.
It’s a warning that you’ve abandoned your heart
You need to find some love to put out your intoxicating fire.
If you ever hear yourself hissing and spitting like a fire
Take a deep breath and try to control your red hot anger.
This will help you dampen your worst thoughts inside your heart
Otherwise you may trigger another person to see sizzling red.
And they’ll stoke up everything from the depths of their stomach
And you will retaliate with a fuming and burning passion.
God forbid you don’t commit a crime of passion.
And pray that you manage to put out your bush fire
With the hope that you can calm your head and stomach
And douse out the fanning flames of your anger.
Try to ignore, every time someone winds you up and waves red
By remembering that it’s important to pause and connect to your heart.
Beware that when hatred sparks up inside your heart
Jealousy and revenge will become compulsive passions
Not even a street traffic light stuck on flashing red
Will stop your anger – It will flare up into a scorching fire.
Hatred is also resentment, prejudice and ill will mingled with anger
Try not to harbor these smoldering poisons inside your stomach.
Anger and hatred mustn’t become flammable luggage inside your stomach
Otherwise you’ll be unhappy and have fear stalking your head and heart.
And not even your family and friends will cope with your fiery anger.
Try to let go of all your pollutant and heated passions
Because they will stoke your head into a combustible fire
And you’ll be like the colored blind bull lunging towards the color red.
So when you feel a flicker of fire inside your stomach
It’s a warning that you’re full of anger and imagining red
What you need is compassion purifying your heart.
Valerie Mason-John is a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order. Her Buddhist name Vimalasara means “she whose essence is stainless and pure.” She brings the quality of her Buddhist name, and her expertise as a trainer in anger management and conflict resolution to help people transform their lives. She is the author of five books, most recently, Detox Your Heart, a book on working with anger, fear and hatred. She was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of East London in recognition of her life work. Her online course, based on Detox Your Heart, starts September 3, 2008.