vaccine for the restless mind

POSTCARD#392: Bangkok: Trump’s election typhoon makes landfall in my mind. Hurricane category one or two. Get down in the basement with all our supplies. All the doors and windows are closed but somehow these intrusive thoughts still get in. Does everybody suffer like this? I’m sure they do, although for the Trumpist obstructionists it’s their rallying call and this is what we have today.

It’s people like us, everywhere in the world, separate from political affiliation, who can feel the suffering of the American people and fear for the Western world. How about our spiritual friends, mentors, do they have disturbing thoughts like this? I’m sure they do, but the difference is they know how to apply the cure – and this is the important thing, there is a cure for this dis-ease. The Buddha was here, understood it and found a solution.

Encouraging to know the Buddha went through all kinds of mind states and found a solution to each problem. In the Pali language, this is uddhacca-kukkucca, Restlessness and Worry, number 4 of the 5 Hindrances, characterized by a mind that is agitated and unable to settle down.

“Restlessness [uddhacca] refers to a mind that’s never able to stay long with anything. It is powered by the energy of a negative assertiveness and cannot be satisfied with things as they are, so it has to move on always to the promise of something better than ‘this’.” (Ajahn Brahm) The discomfort of restlessness creates an outward looking tendency – what can I do to fix this? And there is an answer to that question.

There is a ‘vaccine’ that will bring the dis-ease of a restless mind to an end, and it is found in activities centered around developing contentment. If I take any simple activity, like tidying the papers on my desk and examine each part of my actions in each moment with joyful awareness, and persist in this for the rest of the day as long as I remember to do it and pick it up again if I’ve forgotten, then I learn the simplicity of being satisfied with little, rather than always wanting more.

In the engagement with domestic tasks, I am joyfully content with small successes, I investigate the smallest details of the body’s movements, and don’t miss out on any part of the joyful awareness. I am grateful for this moment, rather than picking out its faults.

In meditation, restlessness is often the impatience to move quickly on to the next stage. The fastest progress, though is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the joyful deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage.

Worry [kukkucca]; simply put, I worry about the outcome of the presidential election. Will Trump try to undermine the whole thing by whatever means? Yes, he will probably try and I need to be aware of the proliferating thought pattern that immediately arises from this perceived situation. Instead of going with that, I can channel my energy back into joyful awareness, knowing that ‘worry’ is what it is and I need to go into a deeper analysis of the word ‘worry’.

There is worry /anxiety/ remorse /regret, and some aspects of these words are specific types of restlessness which may be the karmic outcome [vipāka] of former unwise actions. The only way to overcome the restlessness of a bad conscience, is to purify one’s virtue and become kind, wise and gentle.

The word ‘karma’ as it’s used today is an oversimplification that makes it seem like something not to be taken seriously. Focus on what it really is – the mechanics of why we suffer and how we can make the suffering end in the here-and-now.

Karma (literally, “action”) is nothing other than the Buddha’s compassionate explanation of the way things are: our thoughts and actions determine our future, and therefore we ourselves are largely responsible for the way our lives unfold. The understanding of karma provides a foundation for a virtuous life, and how it can have a transformative effect on the way we relate to our thoughts and feelings and to those around us. I investigate the concept of karma with joyful awareness knowing the Buddha is present in all mind states and he has the right vaccine for any kind of psycho-virus.

Sources: Ajahn Brahmavamso, Traleg Kyabgon, Gil Fronsdal
Image: Sunset Community Counseling

6 thoughts on “vaccine for the restless mind

  1. It is comforting to know that the rest of the world sees what Trump is doing to the U.S. It is sickening and devastating to watch our democracy being destroyed by tweets and brain washed followers. We are sick at heart and have been for the past 4 years. We will not survive as a democracy if he takes this election. More and more people die because of him everyday. I don’t know what the spiritual answer is even after reading your post. Aren’t we burning karma in our suffering? Of course, one can NOT listen to the news but one wants to know what is happening. Detachment, yes, and loving kindness but the outrages are daily. Sometimes multiple ones in one day. There must be some solution to living with constant Trumpian turmoil.

    • Hi Ellen
      All I can say is I know how you feel, really! As I was completing the final draft of this post, I foolishly ventured into the latest Trump news – why? Because I’m addicted to media presentations like this – we all are. Anyway after a short while, I found I was feeling so bad, sick at heart as you say, and it took me a whole day to recover. This was achieved by searching for the joyful contentment I had before watching the Trump news. I had to find it… driven by necessity. Immediately I discovered the joyful contentment seemed silly, foolish, not serious. This is the sickness caused by media coverage of Trump and I know now it was/is destroying my peace of mind.
      I suggest you try to stay away from the Trump media presentation for a few days or for as long as you can. Then it requires a conscious effort to create contentment in the mind and body. Deep breathing helps, then nurture your contentment with the way things are and take care of it really in the same way as I describe in the post.
      I hope you are able to find some peace of mind. Something I found in the research for the post was a short piece by Ajahn Brahm: Restlessness, Contentment, and Kindfulness. I hope this helps.

  2. Thank you, dear Tiramit, for your advice and the excerpt from Alan Brahm. Restlessness and pain, now I will have to try for that. I may subscribe. The book is not available. I appreciate your input. Have asked this question of others but have not gotten any advice. MustBthink through contentment. Thank you again.

    • It’s difficult I know but I beleve it’s possible to retrieve the joyful contentment in the midst of all the bad feeling and by focusing on some deep breathing, it can replace the bad news that the media together with Trump has created. Keeping it light and here’s a link to amazon for Ajahn Brahm’s ‘Kindfulness’

  3. Thank you, as always. This has been, really, unrelentingly hellish. But one breath after another, one focus on a small task, a small does get one through for the most part. It’s also easier to see the effect of the propaganda when you stay away from it for a day or so. Instant feelings of sickness. Deeeeep breath. thank you, again!

    • Thank you Kelley, your reply has brightened me up, otherwise falling into overwhelm. It’s all in the mind, as they say… simplistic statement but necessary to escape from that place of intensity. One breath after another, ‘focus on one small task, a small kindness’ and enter that place of contentment…

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