So the subject of this meditation came to me at 4 o’clock in the morning. We had our windows open and a storm arrived and woke me up. That time of night is the worst for letting the thoughts come. I listened to the rain lashing down and started thinking ‘leaks’. Even though I couldn’t hear anything dripping within the house, I was all set to jump out of bed. Then I thought “Stop making mountains out of molehills”. I followed my breath for a while and went back to sleep. But, it did give me a good topic for a meditation. Because, that’s what we do, all the time. Make mountains out of molehills. Before we dive in to this though, I must emphasize that of course we have to think about things, worry about things, plan for eventualities. Life is complex and sometimes we must work to find solutions to problems. But here, specifically, I’m talking about those situations where the mind creates a situation that either doesn’t exist or it makes a situation something to fear or be anxious about.
Here, with meditation, we are using these times when the mind does this, as an opportunity to learn. To see how our mind doesn’t always tell us the truth. To see how it creates and distorts. Remember, the Buddha taught us that we don’t suffer because of the things that happen to us, we suffer because of our reaction to the things that happen to us. In order to work on those reactions we have to notice how the mind is working. Essentially the minds functions can be separated into two primary types. Awareness and creation. Here, when we make a mountain out of a molehill, the create side of the mind is cutting in. So we can notice this. Looking into what is going on. Seeing how the mind is creating thoughts, seeing how they are not actually real. The stories within them or just that. Stories.
OK So let’s delve a little deeper here and see what happens with our minds and how they create these mountains. There is no doubt we have challenge in our life. But when challenged, the first thing that arises is a feeling, an emotion. This will be extremely fast and initially we may not even notice it occurring. Mind then kicks in and justifies how it is feeling. It reaches out and searches for an explanation for the emotion. Sometimes, it doesn’t tell us the truth and the cause. It latches on to a reason. It is at this point where the problem really occurs because the mind embellishes the experience, making it appear bigger, more important. We shouldn’t see this process as somehow wrong or evil. It is just human. We have evolved to do this. All those thousands of years ago, the humans who’s minds behaved in this way, survived and thrived.
But, it really isn’t so relevant that we work in this way in our modern age. There aren’t many cave bears out there on our street. In fact this evolved nehaviour can now cause us more harm than good. When we were hunter gatherers, many of our decision were primarily about survival. They aren’t now. They are more about how we work and connect with each other, with society and with the world. So, our thoughts can lead to an embellishment of emotion, creating a much more extreme reaction than is really necessary. And of course, then, we act out our thoughts and these become actions and creating affects in our world, on people, at work etc. So this evolved mechanism can actually result in us being less connected with the world and act in a way which is unwholesome and unskilful.
What do we do about this? We just start to notice this process going on. So the starting point is the onset of emotion which we find the symptoms of in the body. We feel tension from the emotion in our heart and our gut. Now, because we have noticed it, we are in a position to do something about it. We can soften and relax into the area where we feel the emotional tension. This effectively breaks the cycle and the molehill doesn’t become a mountain.
There is however where there is a positive side to this innate human trait. Compassion. A very positive and human emotional state which we actually look to cultivate.
To do this, we engage with that creative side of the moment. We are still using the awareness side to feel compassion as it develops in the body but we also engage with the creative side of the mind to activate the emotional energy of compassion.
Compassion is developed in meditation through the Meta Bhavana. Literally translates as – The Cultivation of loving Kindness. Listen to the audio to follow a led meditation on cmpassion.