Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on July 4, 2014

I have written perhaps overmuch recently about reactions and their karmic consequence. I am trying to finish up here, but a number of you keep asking questions. I do want to go over one particular topic I find important about being mindful of our reactions. I am sure most of you already understand it, but going over it one more time can't hurt either, and it is a key point.

Reaction-training or "Reaction Tong-Len" as I call it is very easy to get into, especially if we are just starting out in dharma practice. Anyone can try it. All we do is begin to notice when we react (and we react all the time), so there should be no long waits. That bus comes through every minute or so.

When we become aware that we are reacting to something and wince, just note the reaction, but don't turn away from it or ignore it. That's what we have been doing up until now. Instead, we just look right at it, see it for what it is, and acknowledge that it is "our" reaction. We own it right there on the spot. And here is the important part. Our becoming aware of the reaction and our looking right at it is usually enough to cause that reaction to fade away or at least noticeably weaken. We know it.

This is not to say that it won't reoccur a second later, but we then give it a second treatment, a third, and so on -- as many treatments as we need. This helps to get out those deep-down stubborn stains, as my mom used to say.

The steps are that we become aware of the reaction, acknowledge that we are responsible for it (it is our reaction to something) and look right at it. This takes out the sting that we are used to feeling, whether it is a wince, a turning away, or just an ignoring. If we look right at the reaction, it tends to vanish and we just rest for a moment in the space it used to occupy. Rest in that empty space.

Nevertheless, as easy as this is, its takes effort and we can get tired out from practicing and have to take a break. Pick up on the practice later on. All in all, this is the easiest and most natural of dharma practices, something we can do all day long that actually has a big effect.

Once we are aware of our reaction and give it a good look, this begins to take the starch out of it and it gradually vanishes. Now there are all kinds of reactions, everything from not liking a certain color of paint to bringing to mind an old boss who never liked you. As mentioned above, those stubborn stains may take repeated treatments, but sooner or later they too will wither and vanish.

Keep in mind that we can't just remove or forget the reaction between ourselves and whatever the cause of it is. That is part of our history. What we aim to do is to take the bite out of the reaction and learn to just accept it for what it is -- whatever it is. This way it stops being a reaction (reactionary) and we stop recording karma when we bump into it now and again. Instead, we learn to just respond to it naturally, in an authentic fashion. "Oh, there you are again," or whatever.

It is important to understand that we don't ignore or suppress our reactions, but just learn to see through them for what they are, perhaps a bit of history, but something we are no longer attached to enough to die a little bit over it every time it appears. This frees our mind and brings clarity.

In summary, let's be very clear about what we are about here. We each can find examples of reactions we used to have that we no longer react to. Someone or something hurts our feelings. We react. Not only do we react, but we bring the reaction to mind over and over again for days, weeks, or however long, underscoring the reaction and recording it as karma.

Then, for whatever reason, we get over it. Perhaps we find the person who hurt our feelings was not well or maybe we get inoculated by the reaction and built up a natural resistance (understanding) of it until we became immune.

In other words we no longer respond in a reactionary way, but just note it and move on. This is the takeaway I am trying to point out here. We can treat our reactions until we no longer react; instead we begin to respond to them in a natural way that does not include our being attached to them enough to be disturbed or hurt. It happens all the time, so none of us are strangers to getting over reactions.

What is being suggested in this particular dharma practice is to also be proactive with reactions. Note them as they come up, and perhaps even be more vigilant in our awareness of them. Aside from these larger reactions that hurt our feelings, there are myriads of them that are the result of our self's likes and dislikes. They too can be toned down and gradually removed. And one more time: why should we do this?

We might want to do this because these incessant visceral reactions we go through each day eat up our energy, cause us to shrink from life, and ultimately cloud our mind. They have been doing this all our life.

Our attempts to ignore our reactions have obviously not worked because we are still reacting away on cue. The accumulation of the micro-karma that results from all our reactions coats our natural clarity and buries us beneath its layers, literally obscuring our mind. By taming our reactions we gain back needed energy, remove mental obscurations, and free the mind to be clear and restful.


[Photo taken in the last couple of days. Lilies!]