Thoughts Run Amok
"Thought and intellect are good servants - great tools, but poor masters...Our restless imaginings, obsessions, and incessant anxieties, uncertainties, and worries run amok, leaving us not a moment's peace." ~Lama Surya Das
I laid in the bed this morning two whole hours later than I have been for the last 14 weeks of my life. For me, taking an intensive Latin course, or any language for that matter, required me to rise early to take advantage of the quiet - a quiet world and a sleepily-quiet and somewhat refreshed mind. It took all that I had to survive my second intensive ancient language course. I indulged my mind mulling it all over, again.
It was so awful...14 weeks is just too damn short to memorize such volume. It is just plain ole difficult for an older mind to retain so many disparate charts and conjugations (although, the younger minds struggled, as well!). It is beyond uncomfortable to be called out every day to perform publicly to the excessively high expectations of retention. It left this student feeling discouraged and rather resentful. The final was excruciating, to put it simply. I watched as one of the students worked the exam for about 45 minutes of the 2 hour time allotment, then gave up. When I handed my paper in, I stated flatly, "that's enough." It was enough. I had given, studied, and agonized enough and felt completely defeated. Yes, I let my mind rehearse and play with all these thoughts, again.
I am so very grateful that it is over. But, it is true that these thoughts really are poor masters - do I let these thoughts control my outlook, my attitude, or how I perceive life around me? Are my worries, random opinions, and rehearsals of the past so vastly important that they can be like a master dictating my actions and reactions? I sure hope not. But, the real question is how can I get a handle on my hard-to-control mind.
The answer lies not in the conditioned thought patterns and solutions of a dualistic society - it is not that I need to control my mind to be either disciplined or not - that would require value judgments that are just not appropriate nor helpful. If that was the answer, I would have experienced much peace and happiness long before now! Perhaps the answer is turning to face the situation straight on; observing the thoughts as they come and not attaching them to myself or owning them. Watching them arise, bloom, and age - then allowing them dissolve into the vapor from which they came. Just like pain, emotional hurt, or anger that arises, they all fade if we don't give them value and life.
And with that, I am back to the (much-ridiculed, but highly insightful) Jedi philosophy of holding that which occupies your mind in your hand, looking deeply at its nature for understanding, then letting it go. Attachment happens with the act of defining ourselves by our thoughts - I am my pain, I am my emotional hurt, I am my performance, I am what others think of me. These are the labels and assumptions the esteemed Lama refers to as "restless imaginings, obsessions, and incessant anxieties, uncertainties, and worries" that really do cause our happiness and peace to evaporate. I can easily say that the last 14 weeks of this intensive Latin course has caused my happiness and peace to evaporate as I had taken on the prof's perceived disappointment in the class' performance. And with that I say "enough."