When my kids were younger, all 3 of them went through a stage that was equal parts endearing and frustrating. It was a time of not wanting to go to bed. A period of inventing countless, increasingly absurd excuses.
“I need a drink. I have to go to the bathroom. I forgot my stuffed animal.” Children are deeply manipulative creatures. Eventually they would happen upon reasons that were hard to resist. “I need a hug. I need a kiss. Can I have a back rub?”
I broach this topic here because I am learning that there are parts of me that are like my children. They don’t want to let go. They don’t want to release their hold.
People call it the false self. And the monkey mind. It is the reason that meditation needs to be learned; because there is a part of us that resists.
It takes the form of needing to move, wiggle and itch. Or the thoughts and feelings that just won’t be released, that keep coming back, as annoying as the single fly that threatens to ruin the picnic. Or the desire to shave a few minutes off the end of a meditation session to respond to a facebook notification.
My false self, my monkey mind, it is no less clever than young kids. I am a thinker. And when I’m letting go, my mind offers me these tantalizing rabbit trails, fragments of thoughts, compelling metaphors. Much like kids, my mind closes in on my weakness.
I totally understand the value of an approach I associate with Zen Buddhism: Ignore every itch. Sit for the entire time. Do not compromise anywhere.
I get it just as much as I get parents who draw a line in the sand. No you may not have another drink, a stuffed animal, or even a hug. Bed time is bed time. End of story.
I could just never make that work. Treating my kids that way just created this tornado of ugly emotions and suddenly everybody is wide awake and feeling unloved. (or maybe that was just me.)
In the same way, when I take that militaristic stance to an intrusive thought, I get pulled into dualistic experiencing of the world. When I refuse to scratch an itch, I grow to hate that itch… In the words of eminent sage and theologian Pauly Shore, I harsh my mellow.
Perhaps my wonderful kids were a bit spoiled. Maybe my meditation practice suffers. I can live with those possibilities.