When we first look closely at the human mind, we may experience suffering from our approach to the practice itself. We may struggle to make peace with ourselves. We may experience tiredness or confusion. We may suffer – without understanding the roots of suffering, without knowing how to let it go, how to let it die its own natural death.
Why is this so? It is because the mind looks for safety, and often, its first recourse is to try to distract itself – to forget. Its second is to rationalise poor conduct. We do this out of habit without awareness or understanding.
In this Dhamma practice, we can’t really lie to ourselves. It doesn’t work. We have to look at painful things. Usually, we don’t want to see our habits or our delusions; consequently, it’s hard to be at peace with them. But, when the mind is shaken out of habit by the harsh reality of grief and crisis, we can wake up!
Though we would not ask for a major crisis in our lives, that could be precisely what compels us to turn away from our tendency to follow desire, selfishness, or blind habit – to turn away from the world and towards the Dhamma.
We want to identify with what we imagine we are: the thoughts coursing through our minds, the feelings that arise in our hearts, the sensations of our bodies. We want to be ‘good’, ‘pleasant’, ‘worthy of respect’. So the first step in this practice is to challenge that sense of who we think we are. How do we do that? By questioning, by investigating: ‘Who is it that is thinking inside this mind? Who is it that is suffering in there? Who is it that conjures up this strange train of thought?’
This reflection by Ajahn Sundara ̄ is from the book, Awakening Presence, (pdf) pp. 43-44.