“Selfish thoughts are the chain of iron, self-less thoughts are the chain of gold. Lay hold of the chain of gold to free yourself from the chain of iron, and then throw both away.”
With increasing freshness, vivacity, fascination and energy, my meditation practice has been becoming, more and more, though not every day, a source of freedom from the hourly everyday seesaw of good feelings and bad feelings that was my lot before I began a serious– forty years ago– daily practice of meditation and concentration that kicks up from inside me unexpectedly great deeps of sorrow, and joystreaming, delightful surprises.
The great deeps of sorrow and the joystreaming, delightful surprises have been coming and going for decades, and the insights and changes in myself are an evergrowing gift.
Most of us feel good when life gives us what we want, and then inevitably feel bad when we lose what we want, or are afflicted with what we don’t want. We are informed by recent scientific research (and the research of meditators throughout history) that good feelings and toxic feelings are not created by the events we experience, but by thoughts we think about those events. Most folks still resist that discovery and consider it crazy wisdom, because it seems to them so obvious that events outside us are the causes of our feelings.
That is why the discoveries of the Upanishads and Buddha and Jesus and the Baal Shem Tov and so many Sufi masters and meditators everywhere are so often considered to be crazy. When Jesus tells us that we are to be as little children if we want to experience heaven right now, when the Buddha invites us into the joy of an empty mind, when we are advised to “be nobody, going nowhere”, to let go of attachment to earthly, material treasures, including attachment to our feelings and thoughts, that sounds crazy to most of us, because, ironically, it is the earthly, material treasures and happenings that lead us to think positive thoughts and feel positive feelings.
There’s nothing wrong with learning to rebut the toxic, selfish thoughts that inevitably create toxic feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, disgust and shame. Using positive, unselfish thoughts to create wellbeing is a necessary step toward eventually– whenever it serves our existence—becoming more and more skillful, as an outgrowth of meditation and other allied practices, in letting go of all mental images, memories, mental constructions, thoughts and feelings.
This experience of being nobody, going nowhere, has been a rare but thrilling and treasured outgrowth of my meditation, and continues to inspire me to do more and more of my daily practices.
The wellbeing that comes with unselfish thoughts is indeed to be desired, but that wellbeing is vastly different, in my journey, from what upsurges occasionally when I stumble into a state best described (though words cannot describe it) as emptiness, the empty-mindedness of every infant before it is taught to think in words, before it is subjected to the training and control of the world.
That emptiness, along with signlessness and aimlessness, whenever I stumble into it, creates a wealth of loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, joy and peace.
All this came into my mind yesterday while meditating, letting go of an occasional thought-smidgen of egoic pride that I, Neil R. Selden!, am able at this late age to sit thirty and more minutes in a full-lotus. Extricating my legs from that prideful lotus posture– not without the usual jump of pain– my eye lit on my left foot, the toes seeming to move of themselves, as if playing at the behest of some mysterious force. The infinite infant within me suddenly knew a miraculous pure awareness and joy, the joy of watching the wiggle of one’s toes.