Essentially what counts about our life is our kamma (karma), that is, our actions of body, speech or mind. And kamma means you have a choice: you can act wisely now rather than react compulsively. Reactions are generated by contact – that is something touches the heart. When we notice or are struck by something – it could be something seen, remembered, tasted, imagined – then something vibrates and there’s perception. Perception is the solidification of the immediate impression arising in consciousness; the light goes on, there is meaning, true or false. Then comes the reaction, the volitional quality, or cetanā – and when the mind engages with that, there is kamma.
Training is about putting a micro-pause or attentiveness, between the perception and the reaction, or, between the mental reaction and any engagement with it. And it’s also good to challenge perceptions before they land, or as they arise. So, you establish the perception of impermanence: ‘This is going to change.’ And the perception of the unattractive: ‘This too loses flavour and breaks down.’ Then there are perceptions based on goodwill: ‘Just like me, they are enriched by kindness.’ And when we practice recollection, we establish perceptions based upon awakening: ‘Freedom from suffering is possible.’ In this way, you’re changing your life right now in terms of how and when the mind jumps.
Notice: What are the most habitual jumps? Habitual reactions are about how we repeatedly jump; the ingrained impressions and reactions that become ‘myself’. ‘I’m always like this, I see things this way, I tend to mistrust, or be apprehensive, or urgent, or dismissive, or…’ Then pause; wait a minute. Check. Do you have to jump, right now? Come out of the obsessive rut.
Image by Penn B: Coastal view, Phuket Island
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