Mind Gardener

Vietnamese Buddhist monk and prolific author Thich Nhat Hahn speaks of the mind as though it were a garden in which we nurture the good “plants” (thoughts, emotions, memories, mental images, etc.) and avoid nurturing the bad. In my life, though I’ve reveled in the positive probably 65% of the time, I’ve most likely brooded on the negative the rest of the time. Amongst the passion flowers in my mind garden have sprung up plenty of crabgrass and stinkweed. In terms of the body-mind connection, this is not a formula for optimal health.

After my condition was diagnosed, I sought counsel from my dear friend Reverend Patricia Keel. During our meeting, she mentioned some research she had recently run across that indicates that people who get cancer in the liver are often prone to feeling outraged by the injustice in the world.

I definitely resonated with that, because I had just indulged in several months of emotional upheaval – frenzied activism, fevered letter-writing, and obsessive media-watching –around the madness of the health care reform debate. Ironic, but just maybe this has something to do with my compromised health.

I later remembered that 35 years ago, before my TM (transcendental meditation) teacher assigned me my mantra, he asked, “What is your general outlook on life?” I answered, “I love life but worry about the world.” And that is still true. I write joyous songs about God’s creation and I also despair over man’s desecration of it. I guess I’ve just always been like that.

Now Thich Nhat Hahn’s advice about cultivating the positive and weeding out the negative in the mind is more than mere words of wisdom to me. It has become a key to my survival. So, how does one achieve peace of mind and greater healing? Here are some ways I’m doing it:

1. Deep ecological, Taoist Brewmaster’s view. Though I hate to contemplate the pain and suffering that would happen in the worst case scenario of Man destroying itself and a lot of other species, at least the planet would be free of us and could heal itself. And since I feel more a part of the planet than of my own misguided species in some ways, that’s a win for our side. Of course it would be better if humankind could live in harmony with itself and the planet, but I’m through worrying about that now.

It’s like brewing beer. The yeast (Man) eats all the sugar (resources) and excretes it as alcohol (pollution), which eventually kills off the yeast – but in so doing makes something good to sip while watching a football game. The mighty Earth will endure, and maybe even one day will let us come back as dolphins or something.

2. Marginalize media. I summed it up in a verse of one of my songs: “TV, movies, news and ads/Keep us moody, needy, sad/Suggest the best cure-all/Is a visit to the mall/ It isn’t real, it’s media/Don’t you let it feed on ya/Walk into the woods/Recalling all that’s good…” Remember that the media is simulated high drama designed to keep your eyeballs focused on it. Also, no matter how dazzling and spellbinding it may be, it is not an accurate reflection of the world — even if it calls itself “the news.”

3. Mind the mind. Watch your negative thought habits grinding away. Each time a grumpy notion pops up, think, “You’re not a part of me,” smile, and dismiss it as a silly notion made up by your ego self – bye-bye.

4. Right View. One of the Buddha’s eight approaches to deeper understanding is called Right View, which Thich Nhat Hahn clarifies as No View. Did you ever notice  that as we process inner and outer phenomena we are constantly, though often subtly, catagorizing  things our minds highlight  as good for our interests or not good for our interests? Constantly defining our emotional relationship to everything that comes up. Paisley: what I like. Ayatollas: what I don’t like. Pinots: what I like. Spiders: what I don’t like.  Blah, blah, blah. Always the reactive state of mind. Always the small or large emotional charge. Not a very streamlined way to view the world. See and Be. That’s all that’s required.

In a nutshell, these days I still my beating heart by thinking less and observing more. It’s a recipe for happier days. It might even  increase the number allotted to me.

Vietnamese Buddhist monk and prolific author Thich Nhat Hahn speaks of the mind as though it were a garden in which we nurture the good “plants” (thoughts, emotions, memories, mental images, etc.) and avoid nurturing the bad. In my life, though I’ve reveled in the positive probably 65% of the time, I’ve most likely brooded on the negative the rest of the time. Amongst the passion flowers in my mind garden have sprung up plenty of crabgrass and stinkweed. In terms of the body-mind connection, this is not a situation for creating optimal health.

After my condition was diagnosed, I sought counseling from my good friend Reverend Patricia Keel. In our meeting, she some research she had recently run across that indicates that people who get cancer in the liver are often prone to feeling outraged by the injustice in the world.

I definitely felt a resonance with this, because I had just indulged in several months of emotional upheaval – frenzied activism, fevered letter-writing, and obsessive media-watching –around the madness of the health care reform debate. Ironic, but just maybe this had something to do with the proliferation of cancer in my body.

I later remembered that 35 years ago, before my TM (transcendental meditation) teacher assigned me my mantra, he asked, “What is your general outlook on life?” I answered, “I love life but worry about the world.” And that is still true. I write joyous songs about God’s creation and I also despair over man’s desecration of it. I guess I’ve just always been like that.

Now Thich Nhat Hahn’s advice about cultivating the positive and weeding out the negative in my mind is more than mere words of wisdom to me. It has become a key to my survival. So, how does one achieve peace of mind and greater healing? Here are some ways I’m doing it:

1. Deep ecology/Taoist/Brewmaster’s view. Though I hate to contemplate the pain and suffering that would happen in the worst case scenario of Man destroying itself and a lot of other species, at least the planet would be free of us and could heal itself. And since I feel more a part of the planet than of my own misguided species in some ways, that’s a win for our side. Of course it would be better if humankind could live in harmony with itself and the planet, but I’m through worrying about that now.

It’s like brewing beer. The yeast (Man) eats all the sugar (resources) and excretes it as alcohol (pollution), which eventually kills off the yeast – but in so doing makes something good to sip while watching a football game. The mighty Earth will endure, and maybe even one day will let us come back as dolphins or something.

2. Marginalize media. I summed it up in a verse of one of my songs: “TV, movies, news and ads/Keep us moody, needy, sad/Suggest the best cure-all/Is a visit to the mall/ It isn’t real, it’s media/Don’t you let it feed on ya/Walk into the woods/Recalling all that’s good…” Remember the media is simulated high drama designed to keep your eyeballs focused on it. Remember, no matter how dazzling and spellbinding it may be, it is not an accurate reflection of the world.

3. Mind the mind. Watch your negative thought habits grinding away. Each time a grumpy notion pops up, think, “You’re not a part of me,” smile, and dismiss it as a silly notion made up by your ego self – bye-bye.

4. Right View. One of the Buddha’s eight approaches to deeper understanding is called Right View, which Thich Nhat Hahn clarifies as No View. When taking in the phenomena of the outer world or the chatter of the inner world, don’t lock into a perspective toward any of it. There can never be a correct perspective because perspective indicates that there is a You vs. the World. And you can never truly reach the unified field called Oneness if you’re always saying, THIS is good, it’s so me. THIS is bad, it’s so not me. THIS makes me mad, sad, glad. Blah, blah, blah.

In a nutshell, these days I still my beating heart by thinking less and observing more. It’s a recipe for greater enjoyment of my days and might even help increase the number of them.

Comments

  1. Linda Meyers says

    Love the musings! An eloquent peek into your process these days, good stuff for all of us working out any kind of dis-ease/unease.

    I’m mostly writing to cheer you on, let you know you both are loved and cared about–and thought about. I send good wishes often on the ether waves!

    Love love love, Luu

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