If we want to escape being victims of our mind, we have to understand how our mind works. A map helps; even (and especially) a simple one. The simple mind map we’ll look at today has only two elements: perception and evaluation.
Perception: Our mind perceives what arrives through the senses. Humans have many ways to perceive the world (more than the traditional five senses) and in Zen we recognize that the mind is also a source of perception. Our mind takes in lots of data yet we are aware of only a little. Becoming aware of what we perceive is called ‘mindfulness.' Mindful living is enjoyable yet we don’t often simply perceive and enjoy things as they are.
Evaluation: The ego mind fixates on evaluating objects of perception, constantly asking, ‘Will this person benefit me, or not? Will this activity get me what I want, or not?’ So when we notice a perception (mindfulness), instead of remaining with that perception over time (concentration), our mind quickly begins evaluating whether what is seen or heard or thought about benefits itself. We abandon the experience of ‘just this’ in the pursuit of ‘just me.’
Mindfulness practice is the art of embracing perception. We know what is present; we remain with what is present; we embrace what is present. Living in this way is joyful. We are freed from the constant dissatisfaction of seeking our own benefit. We learn to regard our preferences as passing thoughts and drop our demand that things be like that rather than like this.
Ajahn Chah, the great Thai Master, said: If you let go a little, you’ll have a little joy. If you let go a lot, you’ll have a lot of joy. If you let go completely, you’ll have complete joy.’
Test his words for yourself. Let go of evaluation a little. Do you feel a little joy? Let go a lot. Do you feel a lot of joy? Your own experience is your most reliable mind map.
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