One of the lessons of wisdom my years have taught me is “you find what you go looking for”. Looking back from a perspective of today it is relatively easy to see the times I proved true something Buddha said: “The mind is everything. What you think you become”. It’s impossible for me to get on that trail of thought without some regret, but there is also delight for the knowing of the wisdom within. How I look at things is by far the biggest element in the quality of my existence that I have control of.
Here’s an illustration that helps to show how people see things has great control over conclusions. Imagine you have a corkboard attached to a wall, a box of tacks and a candle. You have been challenged with arranging the materials (all three and only those three materials) in a way that allows the candle to burn without dripping wax on the floor. Think about that for a moment and see what you come up with.
Some inventive people may come up with a number of solutions, but I missed a very simple one due to my previous use of these items being mentally etched in my mind. The uncomplicated answer is to dump the tacks out of the box, use a few of them to affix the box to the bulletin board and then put the candle on the box. The box will support the candle and catch wax that drips. From experience I saw the tack box as only a container. Only with the presented solution was I able to see it differently as an item to support the candle.
With the best of intentions frequently my expectation of how things are supposed to be colors the outcome. When you look at the rough sketch at the top of today’s entry, what do you see? Please take a look and see what jumps into your head.
Now if I tell you it’s a simple line drawing of a large cleaning woman on her knees washing a floor can you see that?
Now completely forget what I suggested the drawing represents and focus only on other solutions. Is what I suggested gone? For me and most other people the answer is “no”. The planted thought won’t completely go away and is a hindrance to coming up with other answers. We mostly see what we have been conditioned to see.
When my son was a little boy he loved “The Wizard of Oz” and watched it over and over and over, which meant I too saw all or parts of it many times. Only after much repetition did I “see” some of the message of the movie. Dorothy found a Scarecrow who thought he had no brains, a Lion who believed he had no courage and a tin man who was convinced he had no heart. At one point watching the movie for the 100th time with my son it hit me. The one who always figured out how to get them out of trouble was the Scarecrow. It was the Lion who always tried first to protect them. It was the tin man that kept rusting up from tears coming from his heart. What each sought was within them. They just could not see it.
A Buddhist phrase often used as a mantra is “Om Mani Padme Om” which does not have a direct English translation, but the core meaning is “the jewel is in the lotus”. The “jewel” (what you seek) “is in the lotus (you). The way I see the world is a result of my attitude, beliefs and conditioning. While not easy, changing my life for the better is simple. When a specific attitude, belief or my conditioning stands in my way I can find a different attitude, adapt my beliefs and condition myself in new ways. Life changing stuff! I am deeply grateful for this knowledge and wisdom!
As we think, so we become
The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And habit hardens in character,
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love,
Born out of concern for all beings…
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become
Buddha (from the Dhammapada)