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I was always of the opinion that I had the ability to choose my responses to situations. By developing mindfulness I can begin to see that there are situations where I simply do not have any control; events are processed through my pre-determined vedena and an emotional response is produced more or less spontaneously, without any ability for me to influence it.

I’ll give an example. I was supervising Rory last night while he was brushing his teeth. Despite the fact that he was very tired, bathtime had gone without a hitch. He did something naughty (in a fairly minor way, on reflection) and I did what any parent would do – “Rory!” I said, somehwat sharply. Of course, tears ensued but at least they were accompanied by good behaviour again. But there was something else – I noticed that I felt really angry. Recognising this did two things – it took the steam out of the anger meaning that I could go back to being the fun Daddy I’d been a moment before, and it gave me a window into what had triggered it. Everything had gone so well that I had become firmly attached to the idea of a bath & bedtime without tears, because if that happens it reaffirms my belief in my abilities as a father. So that moment of anger cut pretty deep. The challenge, I guess, is to get familiar with those ideas at the root of our reactions, to know what is making us tick – then we can see when events are causing unpleasant vedena, and prevent the unskillful reaction.

There is no need to intervene in any way to prevent negative emotions arising; according to those more spiritually advanced than myself, if we do see what is going on underneath, change happens without any further intervention on our part. No wonder mindfulness has been described as a revolution.
Of course this is not a one-off thing, it’s not as if we discover everything there is to know about ourselves and sit back thinking the job is done; we, like any phenomenon, are constantly in a state of flux and we need to rediscover what drives us from moment to moment. That’s why awareness is so important.

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