Pausing: Stopping the Momentum of Mind

One the main hindrances we face in practice (especially anytime the conditioning is triggered) is the feeling of being velcroed to our thinking mind.

In that moment, there is complete identification with the stream of feeling and thinking, making space around the feeling/thinking impossible (no Awareness = no sense of space/possibility).

One feature of being identified is speed. The ego moves fast because it despises having its strategies closely observed. Why? Because if we did closely and nakedly observe all of the absurd stuff our ego does, we would deeply see its dysfunction and stop justifying it to ourselves and other people.  

The Mahasi lineage of Burma - one of the main source traditions of modern mindfulness - saw this problem clearly. Mahasi Sayadaw's response was to make the fundamental practice one of slowing down the chain of intention-thought-behavior (in Buddhism called the chain of dependent origination). This gets glossed as "eating slowly" but being slow for its own sake is not the point.

The point is that the intention for 99% of our speech and behavior is totally unconscious to us. Mostly we don't know what is "sponsoring" any given moment of our reality.

This is perfect for the ego, as it creates the ideal conditions to manipulate, lie, evade, judge and subtly act out without having to take responsibility for any of it. When there is no clarity around what in us is actually running the show, we don't even know we're acting out! This comes in really handy later when other people call us out on it and we get to deny it!

What to do? It takes a long time to know the nuts and bolts of our conditioning (not just the superficial stuff). As that process unfolds, a major aid is the pause. We need to stop the train of runaway thought and behavior. Don't know what to say next? Pause. Don't know how to respond to being insulted? Pause. Don't know where to go with this relationship? Pause. Don't let the momentum of the condition carry you!

One question the Buddha would ask in the realm of speech is: "Is this helpful?" Is what I am about to say or do in this situation truly helpful? Is it extra? Is it just to get people to focus on me for a second, or does this really need to be said?

Right speech is not a beginning practice! It is deep, subtle and nuanced. For most of us with families and jobs in the modern world, it is going to be both a major area of development and a major site of freedom and transformation.

Sacred ConductCM