Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on July 3, 2014

I get the idea that I can be too abstract at times and have not given enough practical examples of where the rubber meets the road. I keep thinking all this is obvious, but my guess is that I forget how much has to be pointed out and that the more real-life examples I can provide, the better. At the risk of over oversaturation, here are some nitty-gritty examples of reaction-training.

This is perhaps the easiest dharma practice. All we have to do is to start monitoring our own reactions, and we don't lack for examples. We literally react all day long, pretty much continuously, so we can pick up the thread of our reactions at any time.

I don't want to reiterate where our reactions come from, because I have done that many times in previous articles. Let me just say that we only have our own self to blame for most of our reactions. What we call our personal self is nothing but a mass of attachments, opinions, judgments, biases, prejudice, and positive and negative attitudes that we have drawn around ourselves like a magnet draws iron filings.

Of course our hand reacts when we touch a hot stove, but that is one of those (relatively few) reactions that we want to keep. It protects us. However, all the rest, and there are countless thousands of them, only further imprison us in a straightjacket of our own making. This firewall of reaction is what sets us off this way and that, for or against almost anything. Those are the reactions I am talking about, but let's be more explicit.

You don't like Molly's new hairstyle and have a negative reaction when she walks through the door. What possible good comes from that reaction, and if you underscore it over and over as it comes to mind, you are just generating karma that further obscures your mind, even if it is a small thing. Multiply this by the many hundreds of reactions we have in an hour, and it is clear that it is here that most of our karma is created. This micro-karma amounts to white noise that blurs the clarity of the mind until we can't really see, which has already happened.

Or Bill says something that we take offense at; he might even do it on purpose. We react, of course, and may think about his slight for days or even weeks, endlessly underlining his remark. We do this to ourselves and even if Bill intended to hurt us with that remark, we go on to add insult to injury by spending loads of time pondering it, always accumulating karma in the process. Again, we are the big loser here.

And I don't like this paint color, that dress, or your new car. I would never buy it. We each are like the finale at the fireworks when it comes to reactions. We don't just react in serial fashion, but we can convulse in huge bursts of reaction, which only layers us evermore with obfuscating karma. We do this to ourselves and we do it continually, from dawn to dusk. Just think for a moment how much karma we are accumulating through reactions. Are we even aware anymore that we are reacting?

No, we have not killed anyone or stolen anything (big karma) except from ourselves by endlessly layering on this micro-karma, one coat at a time. Sure, every once in a while something untoward or tragic happens and some of the more brittle layers may break off, letting a little light through. But most of the time we are busy accumulating karma, one layer at a time based on our reactions and we are not even very aware of it. The busy little bees have nothing on us.

The important thing to realize (in my experience) is that these are "our" reactions, and no one else's. Regardless of the intent of the source (from where it came), we alone are responsible for our response. Life may provoke us to react, but reacting instead of responding is all up to us. Reaction-training helps to convert knee-jerk reactions to appropriate responses, which buffer us, and effectively stop the accumulation of micro-karma. That is huge, the fact of not recording of this micro-karma.

I may react to my messy desk every time I see it, or to that painting on your wall. Why would you choose such a thing! I react to the list of things I have to do and have not done, to feeding the dog when I am lazy, to taking a shower when I am all about ennui, to fixing the broken whatever, basically to all things great or small – and all of the time.

Each reaction does two things. First it happens and usually causes me to wince. Second, repeated reactions build up a patina of ignorance in an attempt to ignore my own reactions. It all endlessly adds up and it is all karma that injures me now and will also ripen later through its persistence. I will have to pay for it someday. Sounds a little like the Christian idea of sin. Perhaps we spiritual paths are all looking at the same thing.

[Photo I took yesterday of a budding Queen Anne's Lace. Not the little fly, which I have cropped out and shown at 100%. This shows how sharp this lens I am using is.]