I feel that people know my thoughts

Jun 12, 2023

 

QUESTION

Hi Venerable Robina,

 

I hope you are well. I hope it’s okay to reach out again. I have so appreciated your responses, deeply.

 

I work every day to hold humanity in mind with compassion and love, but I’m still fearful that people are deeply angry with me, fearful that they know all of my thoughts, and fearful that I could hurt them with my thoughts. (I keep trying to disbelieve that delusion but it’s sticky. I did challenge myself today, surrounded by people, and attempted to hold as much confidence and humility as I could. It went okay, but it was short-lived.)

 

I keep trying to search for the kindness inherent in us as people, but some days are more successful than others. Perhaps this too is delusion, but I am afraid that my presence on the planet does more harm than good, albeit unintentionally. And that’s the opposite of what I want. It feels devastating and at times horrifying, which is why I seek refuge and healing through the Dharma.

 

I’m told that due to my symptoms I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. But I have this overwhelming, deep desire to apologize profusely to all people — loved ones and strangers — because I’m afraid I’ve hurt people with my thoughts, but of course, I’m being told that there is nothing to apologize for. (A relief, but hard to believe sometimes.) 

 

Do you have any suggestions? I am finding my own ways to be able to tolerate my experience through open-hearted awareness and cultivating humility, but it’s the sustained/long-term courage that I struggle to keep. I regress sometimes. Or, my mind can’t seem to find a way out of its confusion. 

 

Thank you for bearing with me.

 

With love and gratitude,

Y

 

ANSWER

Dearest Y,

 

From the perspective of the Buddhist view of the mind, we all have the neurotic voices of ego, if you like: attachment, anger, depression, jealousy, all the others. Their key function is emotional pain and, more subtly — and this is the essence of them — they’re distorted, exaggerated, conceptions deep in the bones of our being. They’re even called “delusions.”

 

Then we have the virtuous, positive, reasonable states of mind, such as love, empathy, intelligence, etc. These are our saving grace.

 

The distinction is very clear, and the key job of a Buddhist is to learn, through the practice of intensive self-awareness, to distinguish between these two sets of states of mind and to gradually lessen the neurotic ones and grow the positive ones.

 

The trouble is the unhappy stories in our head seem to run the show! And everyone experiences this, it’s just a question of degree.

 

Attachment is multi-faceted: it comes from a deep sense of not being enough, not having enough, so we always hanker after something out there: this emotional hunger for the objects of the senses.

 

But the deepest attachment is the hunger for approval and validation from others: it’s the nature of ego: we feel separate, lonely, bereft, so yearn for validation.

 

Everyone on the planet experiences this; it’s the nature of ego. Everyone has stories in their head about not being good enough, worrying about what people think, and basing most of our decisions on doing what will bring the approval.

 

It just happens to be that at the moment for you it’s far more intense. You’re utterly convinced that you’re naked to everyone, and that you’re bad. And then you tell yourself that you are harming people, etc.

 

For all of us, these stories in our head — I’m too fat, I’m not beautiful, people don’t like me, and the other millions of scripts — are exaggerations, distortions. They’re simply not accurate!

 

And the tragedy is: we believe them. Everybody believes these distorted stories, these scripts. And why is because they’re deep, deep habits.

 

The crucial first job in learning to break down, weaken, lessen these stories is to not believe them. And that’s the hardest thing! We all believe whatever we think! It’s incredible.

 

Also, for sure with you there is plenty of compassion and empathy in the mix; so don’t throw all that out!

 

This points to the main job of learning to distinguish between the valid, beneficial, virtuous states of mind and the neurotic, distorted, unhappy ones. Right now they’re all mixed together like a big soup! Slowly, slowly.

 

From the perspective of Buddhist practice there’s the long-term approach and the short-term. If you like the Buddhist approach, I’d suggest you do what we call purification practices, which include visualization, recitation of mantra etc. They work at a subtle level, clearing things at a deeper level.

 

Then there are the daily practices of mindfulness meditation, etc., etc.

 

As well as reading the Buddhist teachings, the views about karma, how the mind works, compassion, etc., etc.

 

So, what do you think?

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Venerable Robina,

 

Thank you for all of this. I think you’re right, that so much of what’s occurring for me is related to neurotic ego-grasping and believing negative, harmful narratives that do not serve me or anyone else. I do think there’s light on the other side, the way our innate wisdom and clarity is always there, waiting for us to uncover it. I just need to be more disciplined about my practice, I think.

 

Re: purifying and mantras: I have just recently begun memorizing and reciting the Medicine Buddha mantra, and Green Tara. It does bring me a sense of relief even just in setting the intention. 

 

When I can taste hints of freedom, and it keeps me going. I think in addition to the mantras I’d like to make my focus be about cultivating calm abiding, and contemplating mahamudra more closely. I enjoyed attending your class on that.

 

Again, thank you for your words and encouragement. 

 

With love,

Y

 

ANSWER

All good, Y!

 

Yes, a combination of such practices as Tara and Medicine Buddha and then calm abiding/mahamudra would be good.

 

It’s also good to hear the teachings: this gives a sound basis for your practice. I’m attaching a PDF of an overview of the entire path, which is used for Module 3 of the FPMT Discovering Buddhism Course and which we used for the one-month November course at Kopan in Kathmandu that I taught in 2019.

 

One step at a time! The key thing is to take a long-term view.

 

And stay in touch please!

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Thank you for all of this, Robina. I will definitely look into these. Wishing you ease and peace through your day.

 

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