Lasting Happiness in Ice Cream
At times when I felt unhappy as a kid, with good intentions, my mom often offered me ice cream to cheer me up. I learned a basic lesson, "When in doubt, eat ice cream." And thus I was on my way on the path of suffering.
Part of mindfulness practice is watching the workings of your own mind. As far as I can tell the mind's primary task is to help you survive. It scans for difficulty and dissatisfaction and when found, it immediately offers up the shortest path to relief.
I am here at Great Vow Zen Monastery for the month engaged more fully in mindfulness practice. Recently on a break lying in the grass I noticed a feeling of dissatisfaction. I watched as my mind sprang into action. It said, "If your partner wouldn't act the way he is you wouldn't feel this way. If you had more time with him you would feel better. Maybe you would be better off in Portland. You need more sleep."
The sensation of craving, grasping for something external to release me from dissatisfaction, accompanied the thoughts.
This is suffering. Running like a rat on a wheel. Trying to create some lasting happiness by looking for the next thing.
Stepping off the wheel, I turned my attention inward and asked:
"What's alive in me?
What is the nature of this feeling?
Where is it in my body?
How big is it?
Does it have a color or texture?
Are there other feelings underneath it?
What needs are alive?
With these questions I turn my awareness inward and look for what is most deeply true in that moment. By so doing I honor myself and through this honoring I step onto a path towards lasting happiness.
At the end of my reflection, I could do the very same thing my mind offered up in reaction. The difference is that action is now born out of clarity and connection, rather than craving – a very important difference.
In this case I wasn't interested in coming up with an action other than to continue throughout the day to feel what is alive in me, just noticing and allowing.
This week, watch where your mind goes when you feel upset, dissatisfied or angry. Is it offering you ice cream? With curiosity notice the ice cream and let it float on by. Then turn your attention inward and ask,
"What's alive in me?"