The other day I had lunch with a friend who shared with me that someone close to her had moved to Europe for a job. When she told me, I automatically responded by saying with enthusiasm, “how exciting!”. As soon as I said it I realized my response may have seemed callous because my friend might have been missing her loved one. But growing up in my family, the possibility of living and working in another country would be considered the most exciting opportunity ever. I started to think about how we all perceive situations in our lives differently.
We are born within a specific culture, we are given a name, and told the names of things, people and places in our world and what they mean. Along with that we have experiences within the world. Because some of the experiences we have are either good or difficult to go through, we tend to hold on to them. We hold them within ourselves and our minds.
Whether we regard something as good or bad depends upon how our mind interprets what we see and experience. For example, in my life, living and working in Europe was positively reinforced by my parents. We view life from this personal lens, colored from our past carrying stored reactive triggers within us. In effect, we’ve created an alternate reality. We assume that what we see is true, that we know the meaning of what we are seeing, and rarely stop to question what we see or how we are interpreting what we see.
Michael Singer, author of The Surrender Experiment calls this mental baggage “the personal mind”. He suggests that these stored memories that we bring with us into adulthood and even create in adulthood end up distorting everything we see. And this “stuff” wants to be released from inside us. He suggests that anytime we sense tension in our body or notice feeling stressed that this is a sign that we are being triggered by our personal mind. He advises us to relax into it, so that the stored memories can release. This way they no longer color our sight. This, he says, is “surrender”.
Buddhism calls this reinforced conditioning “samskaras”. The Buddha has taught that in order to prevent our thoughts from affecting our own and others’ well-being, we can catch them in the field of awareness through mindfulness – present moment awareness. Present moment awareness is noticing simply what is in front of us, right here, right now. No thoughts of anything. Just noticing what is here now, as awareness. We can practice this awareness in meditation and quieting our minds. But living this awareness is the only way to see what is REAL and true. Anything else is our own idea of reality.
In truth, everything is neutral. Every situation we find ourselves in is neutral. It’s only our minds, with our ingrained thoughts from our past and ideas of the future, that give everything its meaning.
If we know this about ourselves, we can notice when we are judging something as good or bad and remember that this judgment stems only from our past experience or thoughts of the future. When we find ourselves having strong emotions around an issue we can take Michael Singer’s advice and relax into it. And we always have the option to just shift our attention to being here now. “The moment that judgement stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace” says Eckhart Tolle. “All problems are illusions of the mind”.
What are your thoughts about carrying these “samskaras” and how they color our sight? I’d love to know.