“These trains of thought and states of mind are constantly changing. Like the shapes of clouds in the wind. But we give such a great importance to them. An old man watching children play knows very well that their games are of little consequence. He feels neither elated nor upset at what happens in their game. While the children take it very seriously. We are exactly them.” – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
A beautiful sentiment, but a difficult practice. Watching children play - you see how seriously they take the game! But not only do you have no stake in the matter, you understand that the game itself is of no consequence - because it is impermanent. The shift to seeing this in your in thoughts is an uphill battle, but is helped with practice and pointing. Consider the following.
You don’t own your thoughts, you don’t even think them. As a challenge, try to predict your next thought, or what you’ll be thinking in exactly five minutes…impossible! Watch your thoughts dance around and build off of each other. Watch your judgements, fantasies, and mental elaborations appear and disappear. Like children chasing each other - your thoughts are as random, energetic and foolish!
The ability to see our thoughts pass by without grasping their content is a tall task. It’s a deeply ingrained habit - elucidated in a quote by Peter Medawar, Nobel Prize winning biologist.
“The teacher has forgotten, and the student himself will soon forget, that what he sees conveys no information until he knows beforehand the kind of things he is expected to see”
The same goes with our trains of thought. The experience of having a thought appear to the mind is something we are intimately used to. It happens constantly. The moment a thought appears we expect to have something to play with, an idea to manipulate - without for a moment considering that this thought suddenly arose out of nothing! Shift your frame sometimes, and focus on the arising of thoughts, not on their linguistic content. Here’s a trick used by Zen teachers, and a practice I encourage you to try once this week.
Watch attentively for the beginning of your next thought.
It is as it is.