How Being Present Requires Keeping it Simple (and letting go of the mental extras)

Many years ago in a land far, far away (for some of you reading this post that is) I bought a book that enchanted me, and that soothed me, and that, most of the time, I didn’t understand at all. It was called “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki.

Shunryu often spoke of removing things that were “extra”. Of how, we might experience some emotion, but to say that someone else caused it would be “extra” as in “too much”, “superfluous”. It sounded good, and very mysterious.

Now, I notice the “extra” with a lot of things. I might do something and then berate myself for doing it… the berating is “extra”. I might feel unhappy about something, and then feel scared about being unhappy…the being scared is extra.

It is interesting to notice, how many of our problems are actually judgements of associations about reactions to what is happening (like an inner variation on “he said that she said that they said but I think that they should and he might” etc etc). There is “whatever is happening” and then there is a whole pile of reactions to it which is piled on top. That is extra. (Like mental topping, or brain sprinkles. Ahem. Anyway…).

Often that “piling on top” is a desperate attempt to “make things right” (which is mindfulness slang for: refusing to see things for what they are.). We have often been taught that things should be a certain way. So, when they are not, we twist and turn things in our mind in an attempt to make them into something they are not. Another way to say it would be: when you are in a hole, stop digging.

To come back to the point about other people hurting you. Don Miguel Ruiz uses a metaphor of ‘everyone having open wounds’. It is very easy for other people to rub salt into those wounds, yet, it is not the salt that causes the wounds. Which is not to say that people rubbing salt in on purpose shouldn’t be avoided / spoken to / dealt with. It just means, the wound is there. It is there, with or without stacking a lot of complicated reactions on top.

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