Thursday, February 12, 2015

On scratching the itch...

One of the fundamental lessons learned in meditation/contemplation is that you are not your thoughts and feelings (or, to put it another way, your thoughts and feelings are not you).  One learns to step back and observe the thoughts and feelings as they pass through the conscious mind--arising, existing for a moment, then ceasing.

Sometimes when I meditate I will get an itch--on my nose or ear or elsewhere.  I've discovered that if I don't react to it other than to simply observe it, the itch goes away after a moment or two.  If I don't scratch the itch, if I don't engage the lustful thought or nurture the angry feeling, it will pass away of its own accord--floating on down the stream of time.  One learns from this that pretty much everything within us and around us is in a state of flux and flow, process and impermanence, arising and ceasing.  This observation is at the heart of religious mystical teachings, be they Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, etc.

Meditation/contemplation has proven to be a very helpful practice for prison inmates and students in troubled schools because it teaches them to not immediately react in stressful situations but rather to observe what is happening and what they are feeling about what is happening and then choose an appropriate reaction (or non-reaction) that is positive and productive.

Two days ago a man in North Carolina murdered, execution-style, three young adults.  Immediately presumptive speculation began.  Was it a hate crime based on the man being an atheist and the victims being Muslims?  Was it a parking dispute which escalated to extreme proportions?  Time will tell.  Eventually the details will come to light and we'll all have a better idea of what happened and why.  But it is hard for us to step back and watch and wait and not react immediately.  We want to scratch that itch now.  The media capitalizes on our desire to scratch the itch.

One thing about the killings in North Carolina is clear: the man used a gun.  The problem with guns is this: humans are prone to react based upon thoughts and feelings (which are not reality but a perception of reality) and if a gun is added to the mix that reaction is quite likely to be tragic and irrevocable.


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