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Working with a negative cycle of the mind just now. But practising not getting entangled and caught up in the story about it all. It is hard work, the bad mood can be sticky like superglue and hard to shake off. But one has to persevere.

The breath can help, feeling the cool air going in, the warm air going out. Bad moods have unpleasant sensations, so focusing on something neutral can bring some relief. Especially if one is unable to feel or generate any pleasure, a neutral feeling can feel pleasant after a negative mood.

Paying attention to the breath can help with abandoning unwholesome states of mind; but more often than not you will need to talk your monkey mind into a more chilled out zone of thinking before it will even settle with the breath. So one has to reason with the mind, I sometimes do this out loud (when I am alone of course). I have a conversation with myself like a crazy person. Hey don’t judge me, it works!

This evening I was experiencing intense agitation, anger, sadness and mental pain. I went for a walk and as I walked I thought about what this unwholesome state of mind was: just sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories, emotions, so what? Why am I so bothered about them? Why do I need to tell myself these stories about it? I know nothing lasts in this world, everything is always changing, other people, me, the weather, society, time, day, night, seasons, this body is ageing and dying. Everything is impermanent, and loss and separation is fated for all, which makes it all feel a bit disatisfying and stressful. Which is the first noble truth: ‘there is suffering.’

The second noble truth is about the origin of suffering. I reflected on our attachment to things, things that are always changing, we chase and want what we think will make us happy, only to find when we grasp for them that there’s nothing but phantom air, just an insubstantial moment that is gone. Our mind comes into contact with something external, which triggers a sensation and a mental feeling, which triggers a perception of like or dislike, which triggers craving or aversion, which then becomes grasping for, or pushing away; and the thoughts and stories we tell ourselves about the world and who we are, which becomes our consciousness.

When one looks deep into one’s being for a permanent soul, there is nothing there. We are just a process that’s always changing. The jewel at the heart of the lotus:l is emptiness. Because everything is changing there’s no substantial self.

I thought about the third noble truth: ‘there is an end to suffering;’ but I find that one difficult to reflect on as I have not yet experienced the end of suffering. So I tend to reflect on that one with faith – faith that there is an end to suffering. That it is possible to be free. There are many others who have achieved this throughout history, and they all say it is possible to put an end to suffering, so that gives me hope and faith.

Which leads nicely to the fourth noble truth: the path that leads to the end of suffering: the noble eightfold path. Which has led many people throughout history to enlightenment and the end of suffering.

And there you have it, talked myself into feeling a bit calmer about it all. I focused on dispassion. Dispassion for my senses, my feelings, dispassion for my emotions, dispassion for this body, this life, the dramas, the ups and downs, the beautiful and the ugly, dispassion for this world and the things of it. Every time a thought popped up in my head and before I got entangled in the stories I just said the word: ‘dispassion’ to silence them. It became like a mantra and did help to quiet the mind. When I got home I even wrote ‘dispassion’ in big letters and hung it on my wall. And you know what it worked! At least sufficiently enough to weaken the unwholesome state of mind so I could then move onto invoking a more wholesome state of mind in its place. Equanimity felt natural at that point, so I worked with that, brought it into being, and cultivated it, equanimity is one of the seven factors of enlightenment. I kept saying the word like a mantra, filling my mind with equanimity, until it all felt a bit like water off a duck’s back and I finally let go, settled into a meditation posture and enjoyed the breath.

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