The trap of indifference

So much of what can trip us up when we try to see, to awaken to the way it is, comes from our expectations. At times, when negative thoughts and feelings arise, if we’re not careful we can fall into the trap of thinking, ‘I shouldn’t be feeling this’, or ‘I shouldn’t have these thoughts.’

We can form an expectation that a ‘spiritual person’ doesn’t have any negative feelings or negative mind states. We set this as a goal or target: ‘When I finally realise truth I’ll be free from all of these negative thoughts and emotions.’

But behind this lurks the thought of a ‘me’ that can be free of these. There’s a judgement here, this is positive, that is negative. We create self and other around these judgements. We take a position for or against and in taking a position – any position – we’re born into that moment, into duality.

Not seeing this we can create avoidance around what we perceive to be negative feelings and thoughts. This can lead us to be unconsciously striving to attain a state that is really indifference. A state of not feeling anything. But turning away from thoughts and feelings that arise isn’t awareness is it? Locking all of these states in the basement isn’t getting rid of anything really. Seeking truth isn’t furthered by denial.

When we stop taking ownership of these states, thoughts, feelings as belonging to a ‘me’ and being ‘mine’, we take away a lot of this tendency to react against them, to offer resistance to them. If they arise we see this, we note it. They arise; we needn’t resist or indulge, and they pass away. They move on through, like a storm cloud passing over head.

If we don’t catch it in time and we do start to indulge in a negative thought, create a story around it and get lost in this story, it can build up a lot of energy around it. If this happens, as soon as we remember, as soon as we look and we’re aware, we can stop this thought train by bringing our attention to the body. Bringing attention out of thought and into this form, bringing it back to the breath, to the feelings in the body.

We might find with practice we can sense this energy, this feeling in the body. But be aware of the tendency to want to ‘fix’ it, or get rid of it. When we do this we’re just creating aversion to it. Instead we can just sit with this energy. Gently hold attention on it, without a story and just be with that energy.

Like shining a light into a dark corner we don’t need to do anything else to remove the darkness. Once we’ve shone a light into it, the darkness has gone anyway, hasn’t it? So with this energy, just letting attention rest on it will allow it to dissipate and cool. It may take a little while but if we’re patient we can sit and allow it to be and it will fade all by itself.

Really these feelings, appear as feelings in one mode of experience but in another they’re just different types of energy, without a good/bad association. Looking at it this way we see there’s no need to energise them with indulging them or create a blockage through aversion to them. These reactions both serve to hold them in the body. But if we just let them be, they naturally pass through. To borrow a phrase, it’s just mind-weather. It doesn’t need an owner making it happen, it just is this way. When we start to see this we aren’t troubled by such states when they arise. We don’t make anything from them, we don’t trouble them and so they don’t trouble us. And this is a little bit of freedom, isn’t it?

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