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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 21 Jan 2022, 21:37

Fear is a strong emotion, not an easy one to work with. I got bitten by a large dog last night. It was on a leash and I was just walking past it on the street, when it suddenly turned after I had walked past and bit me hard on the back of the knee, drawing blood. The owner was apologetic. But dazed and in shock I just said: "What was that all about?" She looked worried and kept asking me if I was okay, and I saw the dog coming for me again and I just backed away and said again: "What was that all about?" Then turned and walked home as fast as I could. 

When I got home I cleaned the wound, which was quite nasty, with mouth shaped teeth marks, it looked like a shark bite. I put some antiseptic ointment on it and practised letting go of any feelings of ill-will towards the dog or the owner, and instead practised wishing them goodwill. Although I feel maybe I should mention to the dog owner next time I see her that a muzzle for the dog might be a good idea in case it bites someone else; as next time it could be a child or an elderly person. 

The incident has left me feeling somewhat anxious about going outside though, and I was brave enough in the end to go for a walk today, but didn't walk far due to my knee being a bit painful, and also I felt paranoid about any big dogs I saw about, feeling mistrust towards them. I was relieved to get home and shut the door. I think I was still in shock and kept wondering why the dog attacked me. I wonder if it is karma from a past life. I know that practising the spiritual life does not make you immune to past karma. I read that even enlightened beings still have to deal with negative karma from their past, even the Buddha himself did.

Reflecting on equanimity and dependent origination, I understand that unpleasant things can and will still happen to one, and being on the spiritual path does not take one beyond this.

I find myself facing yet another dharma gate. And find my courage is a bit weak suddenly, I feel a distinct lack of confidence today. I am trying to look at it as a spiritual test, maybe the Buddha is testing me. So I am determined not to believe the stories my negative depressed mind comes up with, I have learnt listening to these stories leads to erroneous thinking, so I can't trust those thoughts. I am realising more and more that our delusions come from the way we narrate our experience of life - how we talk to ourselves. 

The stories we tell ourselves about experience programmes our unconscious minds. So I am going to try and feed my unconscious mind clear information about reality and also feed it wholesome stories about letting go, clarity, loving-kindness, compassion, generosity and equanimity, so that this becomes automatic behaviour instead of the old unhelpful habits of the past. 

Reprogramming the unconscious mind is hard work and tricky, because it goes against the grain, its like trying to teach yourself to fold your arms in a different way, it feels uncomfortable. The mind does not like to let go of well-entrenched habits and clings to them even if they are not helpful. 'Neurons that fire together wire together', and once wired there's a strong resistance to rewiring them, but with enough repetitive practise, persistence and patience it can be done, one can change one's mind and automatic behaviour by telling ourselves a different story about reality, one based on lucidity and clear-seeing, and kindness towards oneself and others. 

I can't seem to stop the automatic thoughts that appear: delusions of grandeur, the inner critic, the low self-esteem, the strange weird invasive thoughts that remind me of how crazy I am, the self loathing; but I keep working at interrupting those thought patterns (gently and with kindness), encouraging myself to tell a different story, and it does feel uncomfortable and at times like asking the impossible, but each time I do I am training my mind, and it gets a little bit stronger, a little bit steadier, and a little bit freer. The new enlightenment grooves will slowly and gradually get more habitual. And by training myself to let go of the old negative conditioning when it arises, and replacing it with a new story; I will teach myself slowly but surely to not take personally the events caused by an impersonal universe.

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