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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

High interest rates

What do high interest rates have to do with meditation?

When I meditate, I often find myself distracted by thoughts that pull me into them.  Why?  Because, at some level, I am interested in them and where they will lead me:  the solution to a problem, an answer to a question, a memory from the past, a plan for the future.  I have to remind myself that I am not meditating for these purposes.  I have to refuse to pay the "interest rates" these diversions cost me by disengaging from these thoughts, by letting them go.

Sometimes I encounter clients who seem to be going over and over the same ground, such as a loss, trauma, or injustice.  There has to be a motivation behind this; perhaps at some level they hope that by continuously going over the same ground they will achieve some insight and with it a sense of satisfaction or closure.  Perhaps they believe that they can think away the problem.  Maybe it is just a desire to impress upon those who listen how deeply affected they have been and to experience the sympathy from others.  Whatever caused their suffering initially tends to be compounded by a secondary form of suffering in the form of this repetitive spinning and the emotions that it generates.  But many people have great difficulty breaking out of these cycles, of disengaging from them, and letting them go.  They seem to have a stake in going over and over the same content, an interest that keeps them engaged and bound.  Thus, they continue to pay exorbitant interest rates at the cost of their mental health.

To break these cycles, it is first of all necessary to recognize the cost of them.  It is not that we cannot think about our issues or tell others about them, but we have to be able to break out of repetitive cycles once they have become a secondary source of suffering. This can be done at the level of mental training or the level of action.  The level of action is perhaps easiest.  We can keep busy and thereby divert ourselves from the repetitive thinking.  We can recognize when we are getting caught up in these cycles and use that as a cue to act and do something that is important to us.  

Breaking out of repetitive cycles can also be done through mental training and meditation is especially effective for this.  This requires an awareness of the purpose of these cycles, a willingness to let go of them, an ability to recognize when they appear, and the disciplined use of noting to disengage from them.  

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