The Story-telling Mind by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (extract)
- "So a good part of the meditation is often not just being with the breath but if you find you've got a story that keeps obsessing the mind, stirring up greed, anger, delusion, fear, whatever learning how to deal with that story, learning how to tell yourself new stories. Learn a corrective to the old stories. One of the basic ways of doing this is to reflect on the passage we chanted just now, developing thoughts of goodwill, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity. Try to develop these attitudes with respect to those stories so that you can tell yourself new stories that are easier to let go of in a liberating way.
In other words, you don't just push the stories away. You weave a new story and then you get to the point in the story where it's time to settle down and meditate. That way the story will leave you alone. When you come back out of meditation, the story may still be there but it's not the kind of story that's going to get you all worked up. It's been refashioned.
Learn to get more and more skillful at the way you tell stories in the mind, starting out with an attitude of goodwill. First, goodwill for yourself. You realize that if you sit here telling yourself bad stories over and over again, you're going to suffer. Do you want to suffer? Well, no. Do you want other people to suffer? Well, maybe. You may think about people who've wronged you, and of how much you'd like to see them get their just desserts. In cases like this, you have to ask yourself what you're going to gain from their suffering. You don't benefit in any way from their suffering. The fact that you're sitting there wishing suffering on them is harming //you// right now, getting in the way of your meditation.
So what you want is a story for yourself that ends up with your being happy and their being happy. That's your wish. That's the basic foundation for all the rest of the sublime attitudes.
Now in some cases you see where people are actually harming themselves, harming you, harming others. That's where you need compassion. Think about it. You really wish they could stop. And of course the same thing applies to you. When you're harming yourself, you wish you could stop causing that harm. "It would be good for that harm not to happen. It would be good for those people not to suffer." Remind yourself of that attitude.
For appreciation, you remind yourself of your goodness, of the goodness of other people, the things you've done that make you deserve to be happy, the things that other people have done that make them deserve to be happy. You're not jealous or resentful of their happiness and you don't downplay their good points.
Finally, equanimity, when you realize that some things are simply beyond your control: No matter how much goodwill you feel for other people, no matter how much appreciation and compassion you feel, some things lie totally beyond what you can change. Number one, the past cannot be changed. You have to develop equanimity toward the past. Look at what the Buddha has you think about to develop equanimity: the principle of kamma. Old kamma is old kamma and cannot be undone. What's important is your new kamma, what you're doing right now. Now, that can effect some things, but there are other things beyond the power of new kamma, largely through the continuance of old kamma. You've got to think about that and learn how to develop equanimity in cases where equanimity is appropriate.
The Buddha isn't saying that equanimity is better than the other three attitudes. You just learn which situations require which attitude: which situations require goodwill, which require compassion, which require appreciation, which require equanimity. In this way, equanimity is not simply passive acceptance. It's an ordering of your priorities, telling you to stop wasting energy on things that can't be changed, and to focus it instead on areas where good will, compassion, and appreciation can make a difference.
So you look at the stories you're telling yourself and try to inject them with these attitudes, and especially the teaching on kamma. There's no wrong that goes unpunished, no good that goes unrewarded. That's simply the way kamma is. Therefore, we don't have to carry around ledger sheets which person did this, which person did that with the fear that if the ledger sheet disappears then that person's not going to get the retribution he or she deserves. The principle of kamma takes care of that. But remember that it also takes care of you as well."
For Free Distribution, as a gift of Dhamma, from Access to Insight and Thanissaro Bhikkhu
With metta / Antony.