The Buddha likened the mind to a guest house. (Agāra Sutta, SN 36.14).
Whatever is happening around us, be it in a condo or bungalow, alone or in community, our dwelling place is teeming one moment, tranquil the next. Likewise, the pleasant, painful, worldly, and unworldly feelings passing through the mind are to be treated like guests.
Sitting quietly, we practise being more mindful and observant. With sharpened attention, we monitor every sense experience and thought and begin to see more precisely how the mind is influenced. Are we aware of old disturbances and reactions that continue to echo long after the people or situations that created them have gone?
Brooding over the conflicts and careers of long ago – words left unsaid, family or former friends still unforgiven, or skewed perceptions frozen in time – the tapes of the past play on while the future is dimmed by anxiety. Taking these thoughts to be real, we circle helplessly under long suppressed burdens and fret about what will be. Though the guests have come and vanished, we tenaciously wait on them – for months, years, even decades.
Is it not time to let them go and move beyond the isolation of bitterness, regret, and fear? Having faced loss or hardship, we know what it is to grieve. Just as we know the past is dead and the next moment beyond our grasp, until we can trust surrendering to this reality, the peace we yearn for remains elusive.
Security is here in the dark night, in the centre of our grief. Ready to be with what we feel, no matter how terrible, we touch a primordial stillness. We know that what passes through the mind – sometimes a raging storm, sometimes a protracted longing – is all fleeting, stressful, and not who or what we really are.
This reflection by Ayyā Medhānandī is from the book, Gone Forth, Going Beyond, (pdf) pp. 33-34.