Power of Your Thoughts and Choices

GUIDED MEDITATION | 18 Minutes | Tarane Sayler | TO SKIP INTRO START AT 4:12. This video is about releasing envy and jealousy and how to let go of judgment and criticism by cultivating a high frequency of joy. Empathetic joy is an unselfish joy, a shared joy that you feel at the good fortune of others. This intro and meditation are intended to show you how to let go of negativity with meditation on empathetic joy. Raise your vibration with empathetic joy and heart focused breathing. This empathetic joy meditation is an ancient teaching of the Buddha’s. In the Buddha’s language this joy is called Mudita and is one of the 4 Brahma Viharas. The other three being Lovingkindness, Compassion and Equanimity.

Ten Billion Moments… and Each an Opportunity

–  Andrew Olendzki

If you go to a quiet place and sit down—crossing your legs, keeping your back straight, and maybe closing your eyes—and you then pay very close attention to what is actually happening, you will notice episodes of experience arising and passing away, flowing one after another in a rushing stream of consciousness. Welcome to the real world. 

The world of human experience is made of mind moments. Whatever else is really out there, our world consists of transient moments of knowing. Again and again we construct a reality using the apparatus of the five aggregates: an object is known, felt, interpreted, and responded to emotionally. Then the event is over, and the coherence of that instant dissolves. Another object is served up by our sense organs or mind, and another moment of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, or thinking takes place, each with its corresponding feeling tone, perceptual interpretation, and volitional response. 

While some traditional sources suggest there may be billions of mind moments within the snap of a finger, I suggest we regard that as hyperbole and work with a more modest number, like the four to eight mental events per second of the brain’s alpha rhythm. We are capable of much faster processing (when driving a race car, for example), and there may be groggy times when it feels like we may notice one or two states per minute, at best. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume there are six discreet meta-events happening per second. That is to say, a huge number of neurons, organized into various networks and subsystems, all fire in a coordinated and integrated way to construct a moment of coherent lived experience. 

If there were 6 moments of cognition per second, there would be 360 per minute, 21,600 per hour, and assuming 7 1/2 hours of sleep each night, about 356,400 mind moments in a waking day. In a life span of 77 years, one person would experience about 10 billion discreet episodes of experience. That’s it. This is the sum total of what is actually you, your world, your life: 10 billion mind moments. 

Let’s take this a step further, and figure that if there are about 7 billion people in the world today, then there are a total of 42 billion per second or 2.5 trillion mind moments per minute enacted on the planet as a whole. While the actual number does not really matter, the fact that such a number exists is astonishing. It defines and delineates the personal and the collective universe of human experience. It is called the consciousness element (vinnanadhatu) in early Buddhist texts, and comes to be called the dharmadhatu, the element ofdharmas or mental phenomena, in later Buddhist thought. 

Because the quantity of these moments are so limited (yes, the numbers are large, but they are inexorably finite), it becomes a matter of great importance that we attend to their quality. The Buddha makes a remarkable contribution to human civilization by noticing that the emotional engagement with experience that occurs every moment may be characterized as either wholesome or unwholesome, healthy or unhealthy, skillful or unskillful. Emotions rooted in greed, hatred, or delusion result in greater suffering for oneself and others, while emotions rooted in generosity, kindness, and wisdom are beneficial and contribute to personal and collective well-being. 

So it’s just a matter of doing the math. If the majority of your 10 billion lifetime mind moments are unskillful and thus unhealthy, then Buddhist tradition believes you will be reborn in a less fortunate situation. The greater the positive balance of wholesome mind states, the better your life here and now and the better your rebirth will be. The details about how this happens are pretty vague, but as a general moral compass it is useful. If the totality of your 356,400 mind moments each day is wholesome, then you are an arahant(nibbana is defined in the early texts as the complete extinguishing of the toxic emotional fires of greed, hatred, and delusion). 

This also gives us a framework for working globally toward the collective awakening of the species. As an optimist about human nature, I like to think most human mind moments are healthy—there are far more good-hearted people caring for one another out there than we tend to hear about. But I accept the pessimist (sorry, I mean realist) position—that most people’s minds are filled with darkness most of the time—as a possibility. Either way, if we adopt this simple model, human flourishing is just a matter of developing and sustaining healthy mind moments, while restraining and abandoning unhealthy mind moments. 

Unhealthy mind states tend to arise when a person is oppressed, deprived, or threatened in some way. So working to change these conditions wherever they exist will bring about more skillful behavior worldwide. Healthy mind states are encouraged by situations of safety, care, peace, and respect, so the more we can all do to provide and sustain these conditions for others, the more the project of collective well-being will be furthered. As the Buddha put it in the Samyutta Nikaya (47:19) “Looking after oneself, one looks after others; looking after others, one looks after oneself.” 

Sometimes a terrible act is committed by a person who is filled with anger, fear, or hatred, and many innocent people are grievously harmed. Such cases can also release in a much larger number of people a huge outpouring of compassion, goodwill, and generosity toward the victims (and even sometimes toward the perpetrator). The overall impact on the dharmadhatu is often beneficial, with the positive mind states far surpassing the negative. It is almost as if a cloud of antibodies were swarming over the collective wound to heal it. 

This view of the human situation combines science, Buddhism, and social activism in a simple but profound model. Consciousness can be seen as a series of brain events taking place within a natural ecosystem, but as events rather than entities they are intrinsically empty and interdependent. One can nobly aspire to the gradual purification of both the individual and the collective mindstream, by working simultaneously to ensure that one’s own mind is as clear and aware as possible, and to help create the conditions for others to optimize their well-being. We are all in this together, and the moment is now.

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Karma is not just the actions we take, but also the states of consciousness we choose.

– Anam Thubten

One of the strongest impulses we all have is our desire to experience transcendence. When we tap into transcendence we rise above all of our concerns. We are no longer dominated by fear and we are no longer caught up in the web of worldly affairs, which come with anxiety and worry. That’s why transcendence is desirable. Now and then we have moments when we rise above all of our personal issues and the worldly affairs that concern us. We have a larger, more expanded view. Everything is fine when we become one with a bigger reality.

We cannot deny what is happening in the world: war, violence, and a great deal of suffering from many causes. Even though we have amazing moments when we rise above everything and transcend reality, in the end we always have to come back to whatever is happening in our personal lives as well as in the world at large.

Many of us feel transcendence during meditation or prayer. It’s wonderful and inspiring to experience. It’s a break that we all need. Yet we cannot live forever in that realm. We have to come back. We cannot deny reality even though it can sometimes be very unpleas-ant. We might try to understand it and why it is happening.

One of the best ways to understand reality is to look at the theory of karma. It’s not really a theory or a doctrine. Rather it is a living wisdom that applies to issues on personal, societal, and world levels.

One answer for what is happening in the world right now is because it’s our karma. To say it is our karma means that it is happening because of a complex interconnection of causes and conditions. In Buddhist thinking everything comes into being through causes and conditions. Nothing is purely random or acci-dental. Everything we are witnessing right now, both at a personal level and at the larger societal level is the fruition of all of the choices that people have made over time along with the choices people are mak-ing today. It includes the choices that you and I make today as well as the choices our parents, grandparents, and ancestors made. It also includes the state of consciousness in which they lived.

Today we are witnessing a host of ecological crises, including earthquakes, fires, and climate change. Much of this environmental crisis is a result of human action. From that perspective we can see that the actions we take or do not take have a great impact, an impact that goes beyond our own personal life. The ecological crisis is a human creation, even though some people deny it. As humanity, we all created it together. Its reality is a karmic manifestation that we can no longer deny. We are all witnessing this law of karma.

Karma teaches us that every action that we take has a very pow-erful impact. It also reminds us that the state of consciousness in which we live has a long-term impact on our own life as well as on the lives of the people around us.

Buddhism teaches that just as our actions have karmic results, the state of our consciousness has karmic results as well. We can choose to re-side in an unenlightened state of consciousness, or we can choose to reside in a more enlightened state. In the more enlightened state there is more love, more compassion, and more of a sense that we are all in this together. While the theory of karma teaches us that the environmental conditions happening now are somehow a result of our own actions, it also teaches that we can do something about them. We have the power to reshape the future—our own future as well as the future of humanity. All of the circumstances and conditions we experience in life are a manifestation of the state of mind that we choose to reside in.

From the point of view of collective karma, everything that is happening in the world is no longer someone else’s karma. It’s our karma. In the end your karma is my karma, and my karma is your karma. We all share the same fate.

The twelfth-century Indian sage Padampa Sangye, in his teaching called Advice to the People of Tingri, advised us to hold the view that the whole world is our land, our community, and our tribe. Collective karma teaches that it is not wise to try and divide human-ity. It teaches us to transcend all divisions. We often create a division by thinking that our group or tribe is the wise, enlightened, and evolved tribe, the ones who always make the right decisions, while other groups are the more primitive, unenlightened, and unevolved ones who make bad decisions. It is easy to make these unhealthy divisions, but Padampa tells us that any kind of division is unhealthy and the work of the ego.

Imagine that a member of your family, someone that you love completely and unconditionally, is going through some difficulty. You naturally want to help them. You want to share both the happiness and the suffering of your family members. It would be very powerful if we could imagine that all of humanity is our family. Our family members may say things, do things, and demonstrate a state of consciousness that completely challenges us. But they are family, and in the end, the wise response is to have compassion.

We need to have compassion for ourselves and for all of human-ity because we are all carrying this very heavy burden of karma. We have to have acceptance and forgiveness for ourselves–– and for all of humanity. We need to give people time to grow, time to make mistakes, and time to become more mature. We are all here on earth for a very short period of time. We have to accept who we are, accept our suffering, the wrong choices we make, and the state of consciousness that we as a whole society live in. The theory of karma is very empowering. It teaches us that we can change ourselves and we can change our situation. Sometimes change doesn’t happen overnight, but we can at least take actions that begin to change our collective karma.

Buddhism teaches that karma is not just the action that we take but also the state of con-sciousness that we choose to reside in. Our mind is the very thing that determines the nature and quality of the words we utter and every action we take. The best way to change the world is through developing love for ourselves, for each other, and for all living things that share our beautiful earth.

In Tibetan culture, there is a saying: “When there is a good heart, everything is going to be okay.” The good heart is the true nature of all of us. Let’s hold that good heart for everyone—for ourselves, our world, and all of humanity.

Postings curated weekly for group discussion by Tarané Sayler | Private Sessions With Tarané Available at: www.HeartMind-Hypnotherapy.com

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