We can’t do dirt the way nature does dirt. We’re too artificial. It’s not that what we produce is artificial, but that we are. The minds of ordinary humans (yes, there are extraordinary ones, but I’m not one of them) just work that way.

The human mind has a tendency to split and separate, not unite and reconcile. When an object, person or situation comes into our awareness, immediately the mind generates a preliminary feeling (desirable, undesirable, or irrelevant), and the process of analysis (separation) begins:

  1. the mind identifies those traits of the perceived object, person or situation that elicited the positive, negative or indifferent feeling
  2. the mind focuses on those traits, and excludes from its attention any that do not support the original feeling
  3. the mind refreshes contact with the perceived, either through memory or renewed sense perception
  4. the mind re-perceives the object, now absent any traits that negate the original feeling
  5. the mind validates the original feeling, since the new perception has been altered to support that conclusion

Anyone who’s had a boyfriend or girlfriend that every good friend disliked knows firsthand how capable we are of seeing only what we want to see and disregarding what is plainly obvious to everyone else.

While it is not difficult to agree that such mental processes would lead to attachment, aversion, or indifference (as they certainly can), perhaps it is less clear that, in making all our perceptions necessarily biased (by selecting and reinforcing those traits that we find pleasant or unpleasant and excluding all contrary evidence), our minds narrow our focus of attention and produce tunnel vision. We don’t see the whole picture. We see only a part.

Because we see only partially, when we attempt to make anything (in our lives or with our lives), we must rely on technique, on art. We have to apply our analytical minds to the task, forever splitting it further into parts, and trusting that from an exhaustive analysis of those many parts will eventually emerge a composite picture more or less distant from true wholeness. We function with artifice. We are artificial.

And by that I mean that we calculate. Everything with us is odds-based. We rely on averages. We can get to almost sure, but the fact is we don’t know. The very function of our minds creates a perspective, a point of view a distorted viewpoint. Predispositions lead to feelings, and feelings compromise perception. This is how we cultivate afflicted emotions and wrong views.

However, this process need not continue to run rampant. We can learn to interrupt the process as soon as it starts. A little space between us and the process is all it takes to slow it down or stop it in its tracks. There are two main methods: (1) applying on-the-spot antidotes, and (2) training our minds in peace and clarity.

We’ll take a look at those two methods in later posts.

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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