Reframing Experience

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Reframing Experience

When we experience the ordinary flow of activity – walking from one place to another, talking with a colleague, checking the time – we can notice and reframe experience.

Instead of, ‘I am walking. I am talking. I am checking the time,’ we can change the framework to, ‘There is walking. There is talking. There is checking the time.’

In a sense, we can retrain the mind to see the experience of the world in a different way.

As we sit down for lunch, lunch is happening in our mind. We might think, ‘I’m putting food in my mouth,’ but our mouth is ‘in’ our mind. We might think, ‘I am sitting in a room,’ but the room is in the mind.

Our inner world includes thoughts and emotions, liking and disliking, approval and disapproval.

Rather than getting caught up in these experiences, there can be the awareness: ‘This is a perception of liking,’ ‘This is a perception of disliking.’

This reframed perception can be applied to seeing, tasting, feeling, hearing … the whole gamut of experiences: ‘This is hearing. This is seeing. This is reflecting. This is what’s going on.’

We also habitually perceive what we experience as ‘wanted/unwanted’, ‘liked/ disliked’, ‘good/bad.’ Instead, we can take a step back and cultivate a different framework.

For example, when we get something we want, we can reflect: ‘I was anticipating this. Now I’ve got it.’ We can notice anticipation changing to gratification. Then we can notice the experience of change itself rather than getting lost in the experience of, ‘Hey, I got what I wanted! Hooray!’

The world is happening in our mind. This is not just a mind game; it is a reframing of experience. So, what is the effect of that? How does that change the way the world is felt? How does that change the way the world is appreciated?

This reframing is not just a matter of learning behaviours or obeying instructions. The whole point of following instructions or advice is the internal effect it might have.

What really matters is the change of heart. When there is this shift of view, this change of perspective, how is it felt?

Let that really soak in – the world is happening here, in the mind.

We recognize the world as patterns of perception. Arising and passing. What is the felt sense of that in the heart? Is there a quality of freedom? A quality of ease? Is there a way that the sense of stress (dukkha) ends?

Experiment with this and see if it can be sustained.

Of course, we may forget or become distracted. It is natural to get lost. We may realize that an hour has gone by and that we were completely absorbed in our own projections, our loves and hates and dramas.

But then there is the reframing: ‘Oh yes, this is the experience of getting lost in a drama. It feels like this. This is the mind getting lost in stories. Aha!’

This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Mind Is What Matters, “Going Nowhere,” (pdf) pp. 22-23.