You’re Still a Rat…

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Brilliant quote by Lily Tomlin, and it’s at the heart of what I’ve learned this week. The last few mornings I’ve spent 20 minutes mindful of my breathing. It’s been the culmination of a miserable week where I’ve learned great lessons about loving-kindness, its near-enemy desire, thoughts, breathing, space and all sorts.

Last week I got caught not by not having meditated – I had been – but by having done it without a foundation, I wasn’t being kind to myself at all and snapped drastically at the most insubstantial thing. I didn’t understand that the foundation for metta came first from distinguishing between what the Buddha called ‘domestic’ and ‘renunciant’ feelings. ‘Domestic’ feelings come directly from the senses – pleasure, pain etc, ‘renunciant’ feelings however are spontaneous and occur of themselves – the wellbeing coming from them doesn’t involve any external sensory stimulation. Quite the opposite in fact – they arise when you’re not caught by all the stuff of the world. And in the mornings I was building greater and greater activity based entirely on the senses – it was being creative after all, so why not? I didn’t see that there was no room for ‘renunciant’ feelings to arise; I had no space to be kind even to myself. I thought spending 20 minutes meditating was enough, but it was being constantly undermined.

So I took out the activity and replaced it with space merely to breathe and make friends with my breathing. It’s awesome, really awesome.

I also realised much of my excessive domestic activity was also entirely about desire. What a pig – you can be grasping even within creativity! The desire was for blog and photographic feedback – the more work I did & the quicker I did it, the sooner my approval would start to come in and make me feel better. At the time that made perfect sense, but it was still desire. And driven by desire and with no space for feelings of kindness to myself or others, it’s really no surprise I snapped at the most trivial thing.

The last few days I’ve not just been mindful of breathing, but have stuck with feeling miserable. After all miserable isn’t suffering, it’s just another feeling which will go in time.

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