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Thread: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

  1. #1

    Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Here is some background information:

    I believe that the human brain does not conceptualize, or down right ignores, negation in speech. In other words, the word NOT is unrecognized. Therefore, my opening statement becomes "Do think of a pink elephant." It is only later that we superimpose the notion of NOT to a concept that we already planted in our minds. Thoughts of pink elephants arise so that we may know of what we are NOT supposed to think... too late, we already did.


    From Jundo's RECOMMENDED DAILY "Metta" PRACTICE post:
    ?
    (Note that, for reasons of our Soto Practice, I have modified some phrasing common to other traditions to be more embracing of conditions 'as they are'. For example, we should aspire for people to be healthy as well as "at ease in all their ills", not merely the former.)
    Why do we plant seeds suggesting someone is ill? Also, there is a school that I walk past on my way to work that has signs stating "Drug Free Zone" and "Tobacco Free Zone." Again, why do we need to plant seeds of drugs and tobacco, every day, into the minds of young children in order to tell them what NOT to do?

    Any thoughts...

  2. #2

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Theories on conceptualization and subconscious re-orderings and imposition of words will not keep my teenage son from trying drugs. If I say nothing about staying away from drugs, and he gets hooked, is it really the fault of other people telling him not to, or the people supplying the drugs?

    People are going to be ill whether I think about it or not. Is it better to throw some good thoughts their way, or blame their illness on the word 'ill' and ignore their pain?

  3. #3

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Why do we plant seeds suggesting someone is ill? Also, there is a school that I walk past on my way to work that has signs stating "Drug Free Zone" and "Tobacco Free Zone." Again, why do we need to plant seeds of drugs and tobacco, every day, into the minds of young children in order to tell them what NOT to do?
    Why? Because it makes sense. When one has a grasp that their thoughts are not "who" they are, seeds can be planted in a more beneficial manner. It is a part of the practice.

    You see, we have this great big ego that's always thinking of itself, very selfish. So, if we do some stuff that is a little more self less it helps us to rid ourselves of a lot of our attachments, greed, and so on.

    Because someone says "May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be free." it doesn't automatically mean we think "May you be shitty. May you be destitute. May you feel like crap."

    Of course, if we spend our time thinking about it, we might get full of all kinds of ideas.

    Also, it's the way you phrase it. We don't say "Don't do this" or "Don't do that".

    There is the daily Metta that Jundo posted which is good for some (especially when your pissed off) and there is also the meal chants, sleeping chant, eating chant etc. that we can say. Of course, none of this is a substitute for Zazen.

    Edit: Bowing is a form of Metta as well, but lose the "gaining something". We might think "If I do this I might be a better person or something. No. That's not it. As the Heart Sutra states: "No gain".


    Gassho

    W

  4. #4

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    -
    Ooops, JamesVB sitting at JeanVB's computer
    ************************************************** ***********
    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiishi
    Theories on conceptualization and subconscious re-orderings and imposition of words will not keep my teenage son from trying drugs. If I say nothing about staying away from drugs, and he gets hooked, is it really the fault of other people telling him not to, or the people supplying the drugs?

    People are going to be ill whether I think about it or not. Is it better to throw some good thoughts their way, or blame their illness on the word 'ill' and ignore their pain?
    Thanks Tobiishi,
    Good question. I don't know how to advise someone to stay away from drugs without bringing up drugs. Definitely, throw some good thoughts their way.

    Also, I am inquiring into the wisdom of our choice of words, which are used to convey concepts to others, and become seeds for intention. Is it not more noble to choose positive or affirmative statements (right speech) that have a higher probability of nurturing compassion (right intention)?

    Gassho, James

  5. #5

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Hi,

    Generally, always use a positive assertion for behaviours you want to encourage. A negative behaviour (also called 'dead man' behaviour) doesn't mean so much as it is not a behaviour.

    For example:
    positive behaviour - wipe your feet before coming in.
    negative behaviour - don't come in with dirty feet.

    Both mean the same thing but the first one impresses an actual action on the person to do. The second one is saying don't come in, anyone (even dead people) can do that in many ways e.g. by not coming in at all.

    Furthermore, positive behaviours can be rewarded (very important for maintaining behaviour modification) for example as you see someone wiping their feet you can say "that's great, you're wiping your feet,it helps me alot!".

    Sounds a bit silly but it really works. Behaviour modification can be used subversively (to be avoided) and can also be very useful to use on yourself.

    Not doing drugs is a negative behaviour and canshould be stated but the positive behaviour of doing something creative instead could be stressed as well. Drugs is a tough subject as drugs themselves are not the issue, IMO, but how they are used, when and why.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  6. #6

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Again, why do we need to plant seeds of drugs and tobacco, every day, into the minds of young children in order to tell them what NOT to do?
    That's a good point. That is the society that we live in. We have loud commercials, and bright billboards. Look. I don't have kids, but open discussion of various issues is good I think.

    btw "We" are not planting anything. I didn't put up the billboard. Not my job.

    It is better to discuss these issues with other parents.

    People do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons. They might believe they are doing something right, but it ends up being not so beneficial.

    Gassho

    W

  7. #7

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    .
    Since this discussions seems to have veered off on the examples, let me restate the question.

    If Metta Practice, by definition, is to ?cultivate loving kindness towards oneself, loved ones, friends, strangers, enemies and all sentient beings, why introduce suffering, enmity, and ills? :?:

    While the reality of suffering, enmity, and ills exist, we are trying to cultivate Loving-Kindness (Metta), so why include the cold slap of reality? Suffering exists without us planting seeds of suffering. Is this a Buddhist regulator to keep us from becoming too blissed and caught up in the warm-and-fuzzies, which would allow us to ignore the cold-pricklies of reality?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ?1. May I be free of suffering; may I feel safe and still.

    2. May I be free of enmity; may I be loving, grateful and kind.

    3. May I be healthy and at ease in all my ills.

    4. May I be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.
    For the same reason I would not suggest toasting someone at their wedding reception and then recommending a good divorce lawyer in the same sentence, I would think the following would be a more appropriate Metta Practice verse:
    Quote Originally Posted by I
    ?1. May I be free of suffering; mMay I feel safe and still.

    2. May I be free of enmity; mMay I be loving, grateful and kind.

    3. May I be healthy and at ease in all my ills.

    4. May I be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.

  8. #8

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Yes. I got your point in the first post James.

    It is a interesting point and one that I don't really have an answer to. Some people do Metta and some don't. I'll quote something from Suzuki roshi. But before I do that I'd like to reference my first post: "When we do something selfless, it helps us shed some of the egotistical habits we have. Some people give thanks. Some people say Metta. It is a matter of Metta beyond Metta. Perhaps it is for creating a big heart and compassion. When we empty the vessel, it needs to be filled with something.

    I think Jundo or Taigu should talk about this instead.

    Gassho

    Shunryu Suzuki

    But is this something very meaningful thing or not? We should think about nation become prosperous, or Zen students become prosperous. Is this good thing or bad thing? If something good happens, something bad will happen at the same time. Most likely if one good thing happens, then five or ten or more than [laughs] twenty bad things will happen. So we should think whether to pick up one dust, to establish something is good thing or bad thing. But if you don't, nothing will happen [laughs]. This is also true. What will you do? Will you pick up one dust or you don’t pick up any dust? Leave everything as it is without saying anything?

    How many people are suffering? "What is the matter? Let them suffer. Let them go in the wrong direction. That is not our problem. Let it go as they go. I will not do anything with you." That is, "We will not pick up any dust." But if you want to do something with them, or if you want to help them, at the same time many bad things will follow [laughs]. This is very interesting but very real.

    As D?gen-zenji said, "Everything is buddha. So, there is enlightenment and defilement, birth and death, Buddha and sentient beings." If you pick up one thing there is birth and death, enlightenment and delusion, and Buddha and sentient beings. And something good and something bad. Even though your speech is good, many things will happen just because you picked up one thing. If you don’t do anything, nothing will happen. But because we do something many things will follow. That is actual fact. So we call it "Genj?-k?an." ["Actualizing the Fundamental Point," a fascicle of D?gen's Sh?b?genz?.] That is our k?an to solve—actual k?an we have.

    If you don’t pick up anything, it means that if you understand what is the real teaching of Buddhism, it means what is the purpose of Buddhism. Purpose of Buddhism is not to establish Buddha's teaching, Buddha's groups, but to help people. And to help people going their own way. Just because they are not following their own way. So Buddha gives them some warning: "If you do not follow the right path, you will be lost." That is only reason why Buddha left his teaching for human being. So he doesn’t want to pick up anything. Or there is no need to pick up anything if all sentient beings follow right path. But most people or some Buddhist will make big mistake. They try to establish something for sake of Buddhism in its small, narrow sense. Then that is big mistake

    The real purpose of Buddhism is to bring about the time when we do not need Buddha's teaching, when we do not need Zen Center or anything. Without teacher, without Buddhist teacher, we can follow our own way. That is best. That is the goal of Buddhism. The goal of Buddhism is to bring about human life where there is no Buddhism. So not to pick up anything or to bring about a human life where there is no need to pick up anything is why we make our effort.

    And personally, because we always try to pick up something and to establish something in its small sense, is small mind. That is why the more we make effort, the more we have trouble [laughs]. That’s very silly—if we establish something just to have more trouble [laughs], it doesn't make sense.

    So, as I said last night, the most important point of our practice is always trying to do something with big mind, not by small mind. When you do something with big mind, if there is no need to do it, you will not do it. Only when you have to do it you will do it. That is big mind.


  9. #9

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesVB
    .

    If Metta Practice, by definition, is to ?cultivate loving kindness towards oneself, loved ones, friends, strangers, enemies and all sentient beings, why introduce suffering, enmity, and ills? :?:

    While the reality of suffering, enmity, and ills exist, we are trying to cultivate Loving-Kindness (Metta), so why include the cold slap of reality?
    Hi James,

    Well, because it is reality. In our "Just Sitting" practice, we sit with what is ... life, death, sunny, rainy, sickness, health, joy, sadness ... letting those clouds of life-thought-emotion come and go even as we see the clear, empty sky that shines through them, is them (not two). We do not break up the sky.

    In other words, we sit with reality. People get sick and angry and suffer Dukkha. We offer our loving kindness and Compassion toward them, that they may have the Wisdom and strength to find their blue sky. We do not hide from it though.

    Perhaps you are mixing in your mind the 'Metta' practice

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1199

    with the 'Nurturing Seeds' practice, also a recommended daily practice ...

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1730

    In that, we seek to drop thoughts and feelings of, for example, anger and replace them with tolerance and contentment ... sadness with joy and acceptance, etc. The purpose is to let us taste that our mind, more than we know, is a theatre stage and we can shift the scenery around quite a bit.

    Does that make sense for you?

    Gassho, J

  10. #10

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Thanks Tobiishi, Will, & Jundo.

    I believe I have the "Metta" practice and "Nurturing Seeds" practice correctly sorted.

    And, I do see the folly of my ways. I think I was letting a personal belief regarding societal habits of human communication draw into question the words Jundo has given us for our personal "Metta" practice. Apparently I am very attached to this belief, since the words of the "Metta" practice sent my mind spinning along this thread.

    In other words... I allowed my mind to get caught up picking the fly poop out of the pepper, and almost missed the meal entirely.

    Thank you again!

  11. #11

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    For my part, I initially responded from the gut as a parent, without looking at your question from a Buddhist perspective. It was only after your last post before Jundo's reply that I started thinking straight and in the right light, but what I was thinking Jundo already said. So, sorry for snapping!

    gassho
    tobiishi

  12. #12

    Re: Do NOT think of a pink elephant

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiishi
    For my part, I initially responded from the gut as a parent, without looking at your question from a Buddhist perspective. It was only after your last post before Jundo's reply that I started thinking straight and in the right light, but what I was thinking Jundo already said. So, sorry for snapping!
    No worries Tobiishi,

    I started the entire thread without thinking straight. This thread has been a good reminder for me to release my attachments.

    So, thank you again.

    P.S. Thanks Paul. I like the "dead man" analogy.

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