By Dana Gornall
“When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way…If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.”
~ Third Zen Patriarch early 7th Century A.D., translated by Richard B. Clarke
My index finger presses the button on the top of my phone and I hold it down.
This is a ritual I have been practicing over and over the last few months or so. My phone has not been working correctly; I am missing texts, texts aren’t going through, apps are crashing and I keep getting a message popping up on the screen that says my storage is either full or almost full. It’s frustrating, to say the least, and I am sure there are many solutions available to rectify this.
I could go in to the Apple store and ask for help. I could take everything off of my phone and re-install it all. I could delete all of my photos. I could throw it in the lake, runaway to Canada and take on a whole new identity. But I don’t do any of these things. I press the button on the top, hold it down and reboot the phone. It works for awhile again (usually).
I’ve never been one to deal with issues head on. I’m an avoider, a procrastinator and an overall deal-with-it-when-I-have-to kind of person.
This attitude has its pros and cons. When life is on overdrive (is it ever not on overdrive, though?), I can usually function fairly well. The problem is that when I let a little too much add up, I tend to go into complete breakdown mode. That’s the rub, though, isn’t it? Most of us are flitting through life, bouncing this way or that, up and down, from one drama to the next. Putting blinders on to everything going on all around us is one coping method, I suppose.
So when I slid my key into the ignition of my car, turned it and heard a click click click instead of an engine humming, I dropped my head to the steering wheel. Why?
Why? Why? Why?
Why can’t things just work? Why now? It’s raining outside. It’s cold. Why can’t my car stall in my garage at home or on a nice sunny day when it is 75 degrees outside?
I pick up my phone to send a text and see that it’s not going through and stuck in the sending mode. Growling, I press the button down on the top and reboot—again. After a few minutes, I hit the text app again and type out another text, this time haphazardly hitting letters in frustration and backspacing to correct my typos and random autocorrects. I hit send, and watch as the text hovers, then gets stuck again. I growl, yell, and throw my phone across the car. Fuck.
Almost instantly I see my actions as childish. Throwing a temper tantrum in my car, while I sit watching the rain collect on the windshield isn’t going to get my car running or get my phone to send a text. It felt good to throw my phone though, even if it wasn’t a very serene, yogi or Buddhist thing to do. Would the Dalai Lama throw his cell phone across the car if his battery was dead? Does the Dalai Lama even have a cell phone?
Both in the study of Yoga and in Buddhism, a lot goes into talking about training the mind.
We see images of sages and yogis sitting with legs crossed in a lotus position, heads bent slightly and eyes closed with serene facial expressions. That is what most of us want—peace. We want to not feel the fury of anger or the hooks of sadness and despair. We get bored with the mundane and routine of our lives, and grasp around desperately for a quick high to bring us back up into grandiose idea of normalcy.
We sure as hell don’t want to deal with the monkey wrenches that seem to get tossed left and right along the way each and every day.
The First Noble Truth, though is that life is suffering—or dukkha. Except it is said that suffering isn’t quite the appropriate word to match the meaning of dukkha, but actually it means to be incapable of satisfying or the inability to withstand anything. Suddenly the vision of me looking frustrated and throwing my phone to the floor seemed to reflect back at me, glaringly. A mind disturbed.
Apparently, the way to avoid this endless hole-digging, up and down, back and forth, ping-ponging unrest that makes up our monkey minds is to simply begin to notice.
By pausing for a minute and witnessing my own temper tantrum, by noticing when I am flailing in the direction of searching for approval outside of myself, by being aware of the discord that seems to crop up when I let my mind squat into darker corners and fester, I can begin to practice the principles that can get me out of perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction.
In short, we can dig ourselves out of the hole, only if we realize we are the ones digging.
Reaching toward the floor where my crippled phone lays, I pick it back up. Life is going to continually throw twists into my path and there really isn’t anything I can do about it other than deal with each one as it comes. The first step toward a mind undisturbed begins with watching where it goes—especially under pressure.
Pressing the button then, I reboot.
Editor: Ty H. Phillips