Buddhism, Mindfulness, Zen, Zen practice

Case of the Startled Stallion

I felt Molly Poodle tug on her leash. I looked and saw her rear like a startled stallion. There’s a dog around, I thought.  Molly gets aggressive toward other dogs when she is on the leash. I looked across the street at a man standing with a seated Golden Retriever beside him.  Molly leaped and barked. You might think every poodle has a soft, petite bark.  Molly’s bark is thunderous.  As I pulled her along, I was aware of my thoughts and feelings.  They clicked by as if on a screen.

I watched the man to see if he was moving away.  He stood, looking side to side.  Why don’t you move? I thoughtI called to him, “She just wants to play.”  The man ignored me, swiveling his head as if he didn’t know which direction to go. You’re ignoring me?  I watched my feelings rise. I felt slighted and offended.  I’m trying to be friendly and lighten the situation and he acts like I’m not here.  I pulled Molly by her leash, past the man and his dog.  She barked and lunged.  Cars passed along the busy road.  “Leave it. Leave it,” I told Molly.  I didn’t feel anger or embarrassment.  I was calm and in control. When I first took Molly on walks and she got loud and aggressive at other dogs, I felt humiliated, and my anger rose with her boisterous, conspicuous display.

As we moved away from the man and his dog, Molly calmed.  She stopped looking over her shoulder and forgot the distraction.  We continued along the road on our morning walk.

Our awareness of our thoughts and feelings, as they pass by, is a foundation of mindfulness.  We realize that our mind is not permanent; it is not set in concrete.  We notice a fleeting sequence of mind states with elements of form, sensation, perception, mental construct, and consciousness in each state.

In the beginning of our mindfulness practice with feelings and thoughts, we pay particular attention to the arising and falling away of the three poisons that lead to dissatisfaction-greed, aversion, and delusion.

I noticed in my experience with Molly that my mind contained aversion in the moments that the man ignored my predicament and my attempt at conciliation.  My mind filled with delusion when I thought that the man could have helped by moving his dog away.  My mind also contained aversion when I returned home with Molly and remembered her behavior.  I was cool with her for a while.

As we practice mindfulness, we notice more feelings and thoughts in our passing mental states. We see our mind filled with, or empty of, sloth and torpor, distraction, agitation, the ethereal or sensual, quiet or unquiet, and whether our mind is freed from, or filled with, defilements (every mental state that arises from aversion and attraction).

Witness your sequence of mind states in an experience or circumstance, be mindful of the content, and cling to nothing in the world.


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