Why we suffer
Human beings are brilliant at solving real problems, but we cannot fix a thought that is already there. The more we struggle to fix our thoughts, the more we agitate the nervous system and fuel the very thoughts we wish to fix.
Negative thoughts don't cause suffering. Reacting to our negative thoughts as if they were real dangers does the damage.
How we heal
Thoughts, emotions and sensations are molecules floating in a chemical solution that we call the human body. We cannot fix a thought but when we change the chemical solution in which all thoughts arise, we change the future direction of our thoughts and emotions. To change a thought or emotion we must first change the chemistry in which those molecules arise and interact.
Meditation practice is a device which uses the natural movement of attention to generate ease. In the practice, attention naturally moves through four phases: attending, wandering, awareness of wandering and returning. This cycle is automatic and effortless. It cannot be done wrong because it cannot be done right.
At two points in this automatic cycle, the practice generates brief, subtle but repeated moments of ease.
- In the moment that we feel sensation, we stop struggling with our thoughts and our nervous system calms down.
- Also, in the moment that we observe wandering , we stop struggling with our thoughts and our nervous system calms down. Attention naturally wanders but in the moment that we observe the wandering, we are no longer wandering.
This calming of the nervous system changes the chemical solution and therefore the future direction of our thoughts. When negative thoughts are no longer fueled by an agitated nervous system, they dissipate; also, in these calm chemical conditions , positive thoughts are enhanced and neutral are enlivened.
These moments are brief and subtle but they repeat in these two phases of the cycle and what the body repeats grows stronger.
The benefit of meditation practice
In the moment that we feel sensation, we stop struggling with our thoughts and our nervous system calms down. This is the key to understanding the benefit of meditation practice. We cannot change a thought that is already here. But we can influence the future direction of our thoughts by changing the chemical conditions in which molecules of thought, emotion and sensation arise, interact and evolve.