One Freedom

The Mind  |  The Monastery   |   Audrey Lin  |   March 17, 2011, 4:30 pm

I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The more I settle into life here, the more I become aware of my inner patterns—my fluctuating thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Living at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), I’ve become much more aware of how my perceptions of my surroundings are a reflection of my mental state at the time. Living in a setting where the schedule and flow of life is constant (ceremonies and meals fall at the same time each day, and meetings, chores, and classes fall at the same time each week), makes it blindingly apparent that my perceptions are the driving force behind my mental and emotional highs and lows. Any time I perceive agitation, judgment, sadness or anger, or happiness, pleasantness or confidence, the unwavering structure of the monastic environment here reminds me that these are all reflections of my inner state.

In the outside world, there are so many stimuli, so many sensory inputs and distractions, that it becomes second nature to attribute our successes and failures, as well as mental and emotional turbulence, on the changing conditions. We can say, I’m in a bad mood because I was stuck in traffic. Or, I didn’t get to clean the house because I was overloaded with too much at work and then ended up hosting friends for the weekend. But here, in a setting where I have the freedom to pick and choose my projects, where there are so few idle distractions around to sabotage my time, it becomes astonishingly obvious how much my mind has been my greatest hurdle in any endeavor or relationship.

There is never a shortage of things to do. But here, I’ve realized that the question is not so much about time management, but of my ability to overcome the mental and emotional conditioning of my thought-patterns and habits to achieve my full potential. When I feel confusion, worry, uncertainty, or some other feeling comes up at the thought of doing a task, I find myself with the space to observe the mental blockage as it arises. Having had the space to observe my internal reactions to the countless tasks that have come my way in the past month-and-a-half here, it has become increasingly clear that the world around me is a result of the world inside me.

Some days I wake up at 3:30am, rested and ready to spring into the day. Other mornings my eyes open four hours later, overcome with the weight of dread, discomfort, and a desperate desire to nestle deeper into my warm covers. When I find myself exasperated, negative or incomplete at Evening Ceremony one day and calm, grounded, and content at the same Ceremony the next night, there aren’t too many places outside myself that I can blame for the change in my inner state.

Living under the rhythms of a monastery is like living in a house of mirrors. Or walking on white canvas with a coat of wet paint: the more unbalanced I am, the more the colors drip and color the surface. Whether I’m happy or sad, smiling or frowning, whatever energy is manifesting inside of me is what I see outside. And as I become more aware of my own inner moods, agitation, judgments and habit-patterns, I can slowly start to observe how my attachment to certain beliefs or feelings have limited me from accomplishing certain tasks. How they’ve hindered me from understanding and seeing situations and people as they are, and therefore prevented me from bringing the right words, actions and visions into full fruition.

Each day here breathes with the space to monitor my emotions as they relate to my cravings, aversions, reactions, and preconceived beliefs. As they come to the surface and step into my conscious radar, I can begin to watch the way they push and pull me in different directions—how they imbue the lenses of my life with a subtle and ever-changing tint. Each moment of awareness brings forth a freedom—a timeless, intuitive clarity—that makes each moment come alive.

Previous post:

Next post: