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I, as most addicts do, have a deeply embedded and exaggerated difficulty with desire/aversion.

I am only coming to understand the nature of my own ignorance experientially now. It is frightening for me, because the fear of relapse, that aversion, is usually the primary culprit as the potential cause of my relapse. And I always feel on the verge of it. Yet other past factors play in as egoic reference experiences from the past.

When I began to observe the inner workings of mind and experience, I began to see that much of my desire/aversion and egoic attachments are automatic.

My current short-tempered anger at the smallest things, moods and striving seem programmed.

Mindfulness keeps transitioning into a task and an objective, as does meditation.

Being and letting be collapses into a means to an end. To avert the life that was and safeguard a desirable future.

I have a lot to lose, when my mind is hijacked by craving (in the broader buddhist context.)

For someone who came from a life, where the world was continually and habitually deemed good/bad, I should/shouldn't, they should/shouldn't, want/don't want, like/don't like, I wanted to ask for guidance around Beginner's Mind and cultivating equanimity and understanding. To see things as they are, I as I am now, and the same in relationship with others.

I recognise I am living my life, seeing things as they were, pitted against the purity of what is, on replay in my thoughts, beliefs. Ego overlayed onto a now I feel blinded and jaded to. It has present moments simply feel burdensome to me.

Anything that could assist a practice of beginner's mind meditation/mindfulness, cultivating non-judgmental awareness and understanding to 'unknot' a confused mind would mean the world to me.

Anything to note/notice on this journey in bringing purity and clarity to my present reality would help me.

Thanks so much.

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    It is a good question. I think it requires slow and gradual steps to transition into a state of dettachment. I would suggest trying to identify what things trigger you into the automatic behavior loops of drugs. For instance, are you more likely to take them when you are stressed ? Once you have these answers, trying to think of better ways to dealing with you triggers.
    – Babu
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 20:45
  • @lilredindy The question was, "I wanted to ask for guidance around Beginner's Mind and ..."
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 20:50

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It is frightening for me, because the fear of relapse, that aversion, is usually the primary culprit as the potential cause of my relapse. And I always feel on the verge of it.

I'm not sure I understand this; because on the contrary in my experience relapse might be caused by non-fear, or a moment of what a Buddhist could call "heedlessness" (or I might call "recklessness") e.g. "It's Ok if I relapse".

But perhaps you're saying the cause is your "always feeling on the verge of it" -- i.e. the fact that you are "always" thinking about it.

I remember that, when I was quitting cigarettes for example, the habitual craving for a cigarette would arise, would recur. And because that filled my mind, I was unable to do anything else except think about it -- or to wait for that thought, that craving, to go away.

Fortunately, after a while -- days, weeks, months, years -- the frequency and intensity of those arising-of-cravings becomes less and less. The thought virtually never occurs to me now -- the only reason I'm remembering it now is because I was deliberately trying to relate what you wrote to some recollection my own experience -- but even so it doesn't trouble me, there's no desire remaining.

My current short-tempered anger at the smallest things, moods and striving seem programmed.

I'm not sure it's relevant but I occasionally feel short-tempered, especially around other people.

Maybe in theory I should feel disappointed that I have that tendency, it contradicts an ideal self-image. In practice I want to be tolerant or maybe forgiving of that weakness or tendency -- it's "only human" and "like everyone else" -- what matters more is whether or how much I allow myself to act on it (e.g. by saying something short-tempered -- or, worse, by thinking that acting in anger is justified).

But yes I think I might misbehave if I'm too stressed -- in my experience, if you shout at me for long enough I'm going to get upset, for example -- and part of living is to "manage stress" as they say, and to avoid getting into too-stressful situations.

There are some stressful conditions that I can handle, and others where my ability to handle myself well begins to deteriorate.

Mindfulness keeps transitioning into a task and an objective, as does meditation.

That's my experience too and perhaps it's not wrong, it's justifiable.

I'm not sure what your experience is with Buddhism -- your asking about Beginner's Mind implies that perhaps it's Zen.

  • Some answers such as those here suggest that Zen students are not taught dharma.
  • I've also read on this site someone saying that his Zen practice didn't make sense until he did read the Pali suttas

From the perspective of the suttas' tradition I think that "mindfulness" means "remembering the dharma" -- and there absolutely is a goal, a task, an objective: i.e. to end stress, to end the tendencies from which stress arises.

For someone who came from a life, where the world was continually and habitually deemed good/bad, I should/shouldn't, they should/shouldn't, want/don't want, like/don't like

I think that's a feature of dhamma in the suttas: for example speech is "Noble" or "Right", or it's isn't; actions are "skilful" or "unskilful"; results are stressful or fortunate.

I found the doctrine more reality-based (more true and useful) than a naive understanding of Christianity, which teaches that the reason for doing or not-doing something is "because that's God's will".

I wanted to ask for guidance around Beginner's Mind and cultivating equanimity and understanding. To see things as they are, I as I am now, and the same in relationship with others.

I guess you've been told something about being non-judgemental, which you're finding difficult.

I haven't been taught Zen, so ... and given that a statement tends not to be the whole truth, it's difficult to say something about what Beginner's Mind is; but here goes:

From the latter:

For Zen students, the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our "original mind" includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.

Incidentally the first part of that, saying that the mind is "self-sufficient", reminds me of or was a topic of several chapters of a Tibetan-tradition book titled Vivid Awareness: but some of that book made some sense to me because it used words like "skilful" or kusala which I'd already met.

The second part of that mentions being "empty, open, and ready for anything".

Here's a description of thought-process from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

Well, those were the commonest setbacks I can think of: out-of-sequence reassembly, intermittent failure and parts problems. But although setbacks are the commonest gumption traps they’re only the external cause of gumption loss. Time now to consider some of the internal gumption traps that operate at the same time.

As the course description of gumptionology indicated, this internal part of the field can be broken down into three main types of internal gumption traps: those that block affective understanding, called "value traps"; those that block cognitive understanding, called "truth traps"; and those that block psychomotor behavior, called "muscle traps." The value traps are by far the largest and the most dangerous group.

Of the value traps, the most widespread and pernicious is value rigidity. This is an inability to revalue what one sees because of commitment to previous values. In motorcycle maintenance, you must rediscover what you do as you go. Rigid values make this impossible.

The typical situation is that the motorcycle doesn’t work. The facts are there but you don’t see them. You’re looking right at them, but they don’t yet have enough value. This is what Phædrus was talking about. Quality, value, creates the subjects and objects of the world. The facts do not exist until value has created them. If your values are rigid you can’t really learn new facts.

This often shows up in premature diagnosis, when you’re sure you know what the trouble is, and then when it isn’t, you’re stuck. Then you’ve got to find some new clues, but before you can find them you’ve got to clear your head of old opinions. If you’re plagued with value rigidity you can fail to see the real answer even when it’s staring you right in the face because you can’t see the new answer’s importance.

The birth of a new fact is always a wonderful thing to experience. It’s dualistically called a "discovery" because of the presumption that it has an existence independent of anyone’s awareness of it. When it comes along, it always has, at first, a low value. Then, depending on the value-looseness of the observer and the potential quality of the fact, its value increases, either slowly or rapidly, or the value wanes and the fact disappears.

The overwhelming majority of facts, the sights and sounds that are around us every second and the relationships among them and everything in our memory...these have no Quality, in fact have a negative quality. If they were all present at once our consciousness would be so jammed with meaningless data we couldn’t think or act. So we preselect on the basis of Quality, or, to put it Phædrus’ way, the track of Quality preselects what data we’re going to be conscious of, and it makes this selection in such a way as to best harmonize what we are with what we are becoming.

What you have to do, if you get caught in this gumption trap of value rigidity, is slow down...you’re going to have to slow down anyway whether you want to or not...but slow down deliberately and go over ground that you’ve been over before to see if the things you thought were important were really important and to—well—just stare at the machine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just live with it for a while. Watch it the way you watch a line when fishing and before long, as sure as you live, you’ll get a little nibble, a little fact asking in a timid, humble way if you’re interested in it. That’s the way the world keeps on happening. Be interested in it.

At first try to understand this new fact not so much in terms of your big problem as for its own sake. That problem may not be as big as you think it is. And that fact may not be as small as you think it is. It may not be the fact you want but at least you should be very sure of that before you send the fact away. Often before you send it away you will discover it has friends who are right next to it and are watching to see what your response is. Among the friends may be the exact fact you are looking for.

After a while you may find that the nibbles you get are more interesting than your original purpose of fixing the machine. When that happens you’ve reached a kind of point of arrival. Then you’re no longer strictly a motorcycle mechanic, you’re also a motorcycle scientist, and you’ve completely conquered the gumption trap of value rigidity.

Things to note:

  • Being too impatient, too selfish, interferes with seeing the many details of the world as it is, which takes time, is a process (on that subject I think the Buddha says it's possible for an enlightened person to know anything and everything but not simultaneously)

  • The activity is purposeful -- trying to diagnose and correct a fault in his motorcycle

  • It's a skilful mix of value-driven behaviour -- "I'd prefer a well-maintained motorcycle" -- while warning against "value rigidity" which can result in overlooking real cause and effective action

  • Some equanimity is important to the process -- earlier in the same book,

    "What I wanted to say," I finally get in, "is that I’ve a set of instructions at home which open up great realms for the improvement of technical writing. They begin, ‘Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.’ "


Also one of those sentences seems to me relevant to the problem of addition or substance abuse:

This is an inability to revalue what one sees because of commitment to previous values.

Like maybe in reality the addiction is part of the problem, but a "previous value" had seized on it as a solution.

Also I think that word "commitment" is related to what Buddhist might call "identity-view", for example, "I am this person and I have these problems and this history" and so on; but that too is empty, conditioned.

Anything to note/notice on this journey in bringing purity and clarity to my present reality would help me.

  • Doing good. Not doing things you regret (remorse). Doing things you don't regret.

    I think that's said to be a basis.

    Sure it's a bit judgemental. Except that "seeing no reason for remorse" when recollecting an action is sort of an absence of judgment, kind of refreshing/liberating, no regret.

  • I'm quite fond of this description of meditation (in Shin Buddhism).

    It reminds me of The Recollections from the Pali tradition.

  • There's an answer here, describing Zen, which says that it is formally "goalless".

    ... hence the official statement that meditation has no goal.

    I think there are "stages" of enlightenment. It's orthodox to talk about a "gradual training". The talk of "no goal" might be relevant quite near the end of the training, or continue to be relevant until the end -- but it may be confusing at the beginning.

    I think the doctrine of the Three poisons says that people feel desire for what's attractive, feel aversion for what's unwanted, and feel delusion or confusion about what's neither.

    There's a sutta which suggests that "desire" (of the good kind) and discrimination are instrumental, at least at the beginning of the path.

    "If that's so, Master Ananda, then it's an endless path, and not one with an end, for it's impossible that one could abandon desire by means of desire."

    "In that case, brahman, let me question you on this matter. Answer as you see fit. What do you think: Didn't you first have desire, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular desire allayed?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Didn't you first have persistence, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular persistence allayed?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Didn't you first have the intent, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular intent allayed?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Didn't you first have [an act of] discrimination, thinking, 'I'll go to the park,' and then when you reached the park, wasn't that particular act of discrimination allayed?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "So it is with an arahant ...

    SN 51.15

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