What a distressing picture I beheld as a child…. opening the book ‘Gulliver’s travel’s and seeing the poor man stretched out on the ground and pinned there by hundreds of tiny ropes. There were so many that despite their insubstantial nature he was fixed so tightly to the ground that he could not move at all.
More than ten years ago I repeated James words that he ‘would never be caught by a thought’ to a student. She was so taken with those words that she relayed them to a lady on the checkout in the local Morrisons store. ‘ You must never be caught by a thought!’ she laughingly admonished….and the lady thought that was such wonderful advice.
I also told her that James had once instructed me to… ‘take the ring from out your nose’. Clearly he was referring to my lack of freedom in being led around like a cow… both by the nonsense of others (first step to be free of that) – then secondly, and with much more difficultly, to be free of the nonsense of myself!
Since then both she and I – and no doubt the lady in Morrisons – have been captivated by many a thought.
Knowing what’s good for you when you hear it one thing… consistently applying the advice for long enough to bring about a change is very much another!
At first noticing the difference between moments of openness… and then the felt tightening in the body as an attention-invested identity-thought fuses (or goes into a fugue) with another…or noticing the rudderless, life-consuming drifting, and the ‘home-coming’ in meditation… over and over again. Being helped to understand the nature of thoughts, the nature of the mind… the dharma has so much to offer us. Seeing what is going on and releasing from these old habits, allowing the thoughts to move freely without locking on…
It’s no quick fix…but it can be done…and it’s not a bodge job which just keeps your head above water!
Keeping some form of meditation going through all the ups and downs – not resting the oars – is great if you can. Some just drift away after a while…but some, like this dharma student, find that after each period of disconnection with practice the healthiness of the return becomes more evident. She recently told me that she had realised that it was the only thing that was really going to help her.
As the buddha said in the Kalama sutra ‘When you know for yourself, Kalamas, these qualities are skilful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them’.
Gradually you reset your own compass away from the rocky shores into the open waters…the threads that seemed to hold you, fixed in place and time dissolve…and freedom from the mind-forged lilliputian manacles is yours!