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Cultivating An Eagle Mind

--by Matthieu Ricard (Nov 23, 2009)


Human qualities often come in clusters. Altruism, inner peace, strength, freedom, and genuine happiness thrive together like the parts of a nourishing fruit. Likewise, selfishness, animosity, and fear grow together. So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant,” it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony with the interdependence of all things and beings.

Afflictive mental states, on the other hand, begin with self-centeredness, with an increase in the gap between self and others. These states are related to excessive self-importance and self-cherishing associated with fear or resentment towards others, and grasping for outer things as part of a hopeless pursuit of selfish happiness. A selfish pursuit of happiness is a lose-lose situation: you make yourself miserable and make others miserable as well.

Inner conflicts are often linked with excessive rumination on the past and anticipation of the future. You are not truly paying attention to the present moment, but are engrossed in your thoughts, going on and on in a vicious circle, feeding your ego and self-centeredness.

This is the opposite of bare attention. To turn your attention inside means to look at pure awareness itself and dwell without distraction, yet effortlessly, in the present moment.

If you cultivate these mental skills, after a while you won’t need to apply contrived efforts anymore. You can deal with mental perturbations like the eagles I see from the window of my hermitage in the Himalayas deal with crows. The crows often attack them, diving at the eagles from above. But, instead of doing all kinds of acrobatics, the eagle simply retracts one wing at the last moment, lets the diving crow pass, and then extends its wing again. The whole thing requires minimal effort and causes little disturbance.

Being experienced in dealing with the sudden arising of emotions in the mind works in a similar way.

--Matthieu Ricard, from "This is Your Brain on Bliss"


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6 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 1, 2009 kinyiri salim wrote:

i have lived with some body who has lived his dream. But if you listen to his retrospective views, one realises he had a vision and pursued it at all costs.



On Dec 1, 2009 IA wrote:

Vision is indestructable, even after Death it thrives. It's transferable from one person to the other. 

"Where  there is no vision the people perish". The day you conceptualised a vision, that is this the day the world will start conspiring to make it happen.

Good vision is worth cherishing and protecting with ones life; if we indeed have a strong conviction of it.

Vision help to shapen our direction in life. Let have a good vision and nurture it to bless the world.

 

 

 



On Nov 28, 2009 R.K.Sinha wrote:

 Personal ego always comes in between two personalities whether it is mental or physical.The thing which always gives us mental pressure is fear that why  should i be lesser than some body else?All negativities, hate, jealous ,useless and meaningless competition is the root cause of our downward growth which we never introspect.

R.K.Sinha 



On Nov 24, 2009 Paul Andrews wrote:

This story reminds me of the sage advice given by the old bull fighter to the
young bull fighter. "Listen very carefully, " he said, "because this is the
single most important thing I've learned in thirty years of bull fighting.
When the bull charges at you...remember to hold the cape OUT TO THE SIDE."

Paul Andrews



On Nov 24, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

The visual imagery of the eagle deflecting the crow's attack at the last minute reminds me of Aikido - the way of harmony with the life force. In this martial art, students are taught to receive (and not defend against) attacks by developing presence. As presence improves, the receiver is unperturbed, and at the last moment, makes the minimal effort necessary to deflect the attack. The sign of an Aikido master is that the attackers go flying in different directions, but the receiver of the attack has hardly moved. One of the lessons Aikido teachers in Japan keep emphasizing is that Aikido is not about the techniques. The techniques help you to understand Aikido. This is more easily understood from the eagle-crow story - it is not about deflecting attacks from crows, but living in a manner where we are equipoised, and don't harm ourselves more than necessary. In ancient traditions, there is a word called "sthitapragna" which comes to mind - it means one who is firmly si  See full.

The visual imagery of the eagle deflecting the crow's attack at the last minute reminds me of Aikido - the way of harmony with the life force. In this martial art, students are taught to receive (and not defend against) attacks by developing presence. As presence improves, the receiver is unperturbed, and at the last moment, makes the minimal effort necessary to deflect the attack. The sign of an Aikido master is that the attackers go flying in different directions, but the receiver of the attack has hardly moved.

One of the lessons Aikido teachers in Japan keep emphasizing is that Aikido is not about the techniques. The techniques help you to understand Aikido. This is more easily understood from the eagle-crow story - it is not about deflecting attacks from crows, but living in a manner where we are equipoised, and don't harm ourselves more than necessary.

In ancient traditions, there is a word called "sthitapragna" which comes to mind - it means one who is firmly situated or present, and implies strength. Equanimity is not a hallmark of weak minds - it is the result of tremendous mental strength inculcated by practice.

Inner conflicts are often linked with excessive rumination on the past and anticipation of the future. 

I loved this line - it captures so well how we are either in the past or in the future, but never in the present. This is the bane of our existence. 

Afflictive mental states, on the other hand, begin with self-centeredness, with an increase in the gap between self and others.

This is another gem. The word "afflictive" brings to mind "disease" - it is indeed a diseased mind that doesn't know better than to increase its own disease and spread the malaise to others. What is interesting is that "self-centeredness" is of pseudo variety, in the sense that the author is expressing it. If we are truly centered in our self, we would display equanimity and have healthy minds. The problem is that we are not selfish enough - we don't do what is really good for us (service is one of the most important things we could do, as the author points out in the first paragraph). 

Finally, a story. In a recent conversation with a friend on how to deal with a colleague who had gone in an unethical direction, I kept talking about how we ought to put up a fight, and my friend pointed out that we already had - I wasn't being present enough to notice that our responses may have looked minimal but were substantial. It seemed that I preferred a confrontation. Digging deeper, my friend pointed out that I had thoughts of getting even. I was a little shocked, and after looking in, I realized he was right. Don't know how they came in, but it had a lot to do with ruminating on the past, and anticipating the future as the author of this piece put it so articulately. I had stopped being the eagle, and had started becoming the crow. :) Thankfully, we have the ability to wake up. I feel so much more peaceful in uprooting those unhelpful thoughts, and feeling compassion toward the one I was angry with.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for such friends, thankful to the people who've written such lovely Wednesday pieces, thankful to those who so carefully select such pieces, thankful to those who come to a Wednesday and give their presence so generously, thankful to the Mehta family who have facilitated this generosity over the years, thankful to the people behind CF for making it what it is, thankful to everyone known and unknown who has helped me in my journey knowingly or unknowingly. 

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On Nov 24, 2009 Ijiekhuamhen A. Au wrote:

When one possess any negative emotion, it leads to more of negative emotion.

You have no problem until you give up your joy.

Controlling emotions requires no effort but conscious decision to be that you wants to be.