1 Apr
Posted in: Books, Practice
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Unwise Attention

In some ways, we didn’t “get very far” in our discussion last night of Joseph Goldstein’s new book, Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, because we started…and ended…on page 17, where the Buddha is quoted as saying, “whatever we frequently think of and ponder, that will become the inclination of our minds.”

But though we didn’t get “far” in terms of pages, I think we went a long way in terms of practice, because we spent most of the time talking about what all this means about what we should do….in our daily life, with relationships, work situations, conflicts and struggles. Especially when there are people and things that really piss us off!

The discussion brought to mind something I had just read in Bhikkhu Analayo’s excellent (but formidably titled): Excursions into the Thought-World of the Pali Discourses.

Here’s what Analayo says, quoting directly from the Buddha’s teachings:
A prominent cause of the arising of ill-will is unwise attention to the sign of irritation (AN I 3). [By “sign of irritation” he means whatever it is that we get pissed off about.] Once ill-will has arisen, the mind tends to return again and again to the particular sign, event or person that has occasioned the arising of ill-will.

As to what to do about it:
Intentional relaxation can have substantial results if applied directly to the mind itself
. The point here is that i
ll-will inevitably involves a narrow perspective, usually a focusing on the irritating and displeasing aspect of a situation or a person at the exclusion of other aspects that do not reinforce irritation….A conscious broadening of the scope of perception can go a long way in undermining the foundations of ill-will. 

So in plain English:
Don’t spend so much energy thinking about whatever it is that’s pissing us off. Recognize it, yes, but then expand the focus of attention to include things about the person or situation that do NOT piss us off!   


(illustration by George Willett, from Roger von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack) 

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