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Weeding the Garden of Your Mind

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The writer has had more than thirty years as a practitioner of Vipassna Meditation and has written a book, Where Are You - Me? on meditation

The writer presenting to an audience. He's been speaking to audiences for nearly fifty years


It's the strength of the emotions within that decides whether we REACT of whether we RESPOND

John Smith was caught in heavy traffic all the way home from work. He was cranky. On arrival, his wife yells at him. “The roast has burned. Our dinner is dry and spoiled” - and it’s all John’s fault. An argument ensues. It lasts a few minutes before they lapse into silence. They both realize how these quarrels can escalate.

Jim Brown is similarly caught in heavy traffic on his way home. On arrival his wife tells him his dinner is spoiled because he is late. An angry outburst ensues. His wife screams at him. She throws a plate. Jim picks up a chair and bludgeons his wife, beating her again and again until she is dead.

What is the difference between annoyance, irritation, and brutal murder? …

But were did the emotion come from? Where was it held?

Intensity of emotion. Specifically, the intensity of the reaction. Neither John nor Jim chose deliberately to react that way. These emotions arose and, in the first instance John was eventually able to suppress his, whilst in Jim they were so powerful they took over control. It was as if something else had suddenly taken charge And something else had taken charge.

We know that the message itself, “you’re dinner is burned,’ is an innocuous, neutral statement of fact. There’s no emotion in that. Though there might well have been in the tenor of the message bearers - their wives. So where was the emotion? Where did it come from?...

It came from within John, it came from within Jim. All the wives did is trigger it.

What keeps us from being happy all the time?

What happens to thoughts AFTER we have thought them?

You could say that the emotion was within their minds – and you would be right. But how did it get there? And why was Jim’s reaction so much stronger and out of control than John’s?

Do you realize that every thought that we have has its emotional aspect? Every thought holds an emotional content. Though they are intangible to our senses, thoughts are things. They have dimension and shape. They have form. They are not nebulous mist that fade away into nothingness.

The emotional components of our thoughts just doesn't stay with in us - they grow!

Equally as important – Do you know that every thought you have ever had is registered in your mind? It goes in there and stays just like words on a computer’s hard drive.

This means that the emotional content of every thought we ever have had is registered in our subconscious minds. It goes in and it stays there.

Worse than that, what is put in grows! It becomes more powerful.

When our emotional - pain body - grows in strength, almost anything will trigger our emotions.

Generally what is put in there is not noticed as something which is growing. It takes place below our level of consciousness. But believe me, every thought, along with every feeling it engendered at that time, is inside of us. If you don’t believe me, try regressive hypnosis. Things which happened long, long ago and forgotten by your conscious mind can be brought up and you will relive them as if they are happening now – along with the emotions that accompanied them at that time. Any trauma we’ve ever suppressed or repressed is still within us.

Our big problem is most of us are just not aware of the serious consequences of what we habitually put into our minds.

A comfortable walk from my home


The seeds of thought we plant do continue to grow beneath the surface

Twenty-five years ago I undertook my first serious ten-day Vipassana Meditation course. Since then I’ve attended the same mountain retreat many times. I’ve sat through for fourteen of these total-silence 12 hours of meditation ten-day courses. Here one really learns about oneself at a level not taught in any university or medical school. Here there is some theory and a helluva lot of practice. Our teacher Mr. S. N. Goenka, likened our minds to that of a garden or, more concisely a tilled garden bed of rich soil waiting to take the seeds of our thoughts. Whatever seeds are planted, these will grow. If we plant sweet seeds; those which emanate from pleasant thoughts, what we’ll reap will be pleasant fruit. Happy thoughts reap happy feelings. Gratitude and kindness bring us good things.

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Whether we become generally more contented or more frustrated with our lives depends on the thoughts we put into our subconscious

However, if we dwell on the negatives of life, we are planting seeds which will grow into bitter fruit. As Goenka says. “We cannot plant the seeds of the bitter Neem tree and expect to grow sweet mangos.” We reap what we sow.

Just as in a garden, the seeds sprout from below the surface. Often as not they are not seen to be growing for a long time. The seeds that grow in the mind are known in the East, in Hindu and Buddhist cultures – cultures which treat meditation as a serious means to overcoming our egos and finding the truth of what we are – are referred to as Samskaras or Sankaras.

A Buddhist interpretation of a sankara is that of an emotion held within that will cause us trouble – sometimes serious trouble. Certainly negative sankaras will cause us and those around us unhappiness. They can also cause us ill health- even a fatal illness such as cancer. And, as mentioned with our fictitious Jim Brown, anger, rage that can boil over into uncontrolled violence.


Our bodies are made up of infinite depths of subtlety

Some modern therapeutic techniques can unmask these sankaras, these traumas. Bring them to the surface. Here they can be identified to us and, perhaps, ameliorated. Whether these treatments work as effectively as the age-old practice believed to have been discovered by Siddartha Gautama, the man who later became known as The Buddha, I cannot say. What I do know with my twenty-six years of twice-daily practice with Vipassana Meditation – the 20,000 hours plus – in which I’ve practiced this technique, is that every part of my body contains sankaras. This applies to everybody. More, our bodies are made up of seemingly infinite depths of subtlety and that these sankaras straddle right across these myriad depths.

Another insight: Our mind is not our brain. Neither is it simply contained in our brains. Our mind is contained within our entire bodies and at least some of those subtle bodies which interpenetrate and surround our physical body. Infinite mind lies deep within all of us!

Kirlian Photography can reveal some of our subtle or auric bodies

Esoteric studies show us humans have auras. The auras are simply subtler matter, but they are part of us. It some ways they’re akin to our body-heat which surrounds us. Kirlian photography can reveal and record the auras and the beautiful colours they contain. Interpreting the meaning of these ever-changing coloured patterns, including the darker hues and shadows which predict problems is not a part of this essay. Be it enough for me to say that the sankaras can be gradually eliminated, thereby bringing ever-increasing peace of mind and happiness to the Vipassana practitioner. They also bring ever-increasing self control. We become our own masters instead of being ruled by our reactions.


Regular monitoring of our thinking is an essential first step on our road to happiness

Just as important to all of this is to realize that we need to monitor our thinking. Be aware that we are not our reactive minds. We are the Observers, we are the Witness and controllers of our life and the seeds we choose to plant in our minds are our responsibility. And now that you, the reader, know this, you are forewarned: plant the right seeds. Plant the seeds that will bring you the fruit that you desire, not what an unthinking, unheeding mind might push into that garden bed. You are the gardener. You are the tiller of the soil. And you are the man or woman who plants the seeds.


Ann Carr from SW England on September 17, 2020:

Negative thoughts and actions add stress to our lives, emotional and physical, so it's no surprise that illness often results, even if it's only a pain in the stomach. I recognise that easily and calm myself down - some people can't and the type of situation you describe happens.

It's great advice to try to cleanse our thoughts. After all, it does no good to be out of control, in fact it harms us and potentially others. Far better to be calm, talk things out, meditate and refresh our souls. I'm off to look up 'Kirlian photography'; it's not a term I know.

It's good to read your work again as I haven't seen any for a while! I hope you are keeping safe and well in these strange times.


Farsana Akbar from Kerala, india on September 15, 2020:

This is too helpful subject

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 15, 2020:

This is good juxtaposed against over thinking. I must be careful not to put too much thought into my being.

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