719. The  Nice, The Shitty, And The Neither-Nice-Nor-Shitty 

There can be nice feelings about something, and there can be bad feelings about the same thing. At another time, one may be indifferent about something one had been excited about just a short while ago.

If a person's focus is rigidly rigged to the moment, unable to widen or narrow in time and/or space, the perspective is lost, literally, and the mind may firmly 'decide' that something would be entirely 'bad', or really 'good', or that it is completely 'irrelevant'.

Like a flag adjusts its alignment as the wind turns from East to South, the focus and (with it a person's
perception window) gets driven now into one direction,  and the next moment into another.

Then some very smart people conclude the following 'indisputable fact': since, over time, a flag will be
pointing in ALL directions, it will sooner or later point to South. That means for them (and everybody who is so crazy to listen to them) that 'EVERYTHING IS SOUTH'.

Some other people, equally bright and clever, will determine that the flag shows, over time, every once a while towards North. This then becomes, for them, the infallible and undeniable proof that, in the end, 'EVERYTHING HAS THE DEEPER PURPOSE TO POINT TO NORTH'.

So, if someone get sick at the tender age of 85, like one of our neighbor's some years ago who had led a long, healthy, and mostly happy and fulfilled life until then, it means to the 'Southern' fraction that, of course, 'ALL LIFE IS SUFFERING' - there you have it!

Meanwhile, the 'Northern' fraction is just waiting for the 50 year-old cancer-and-asthma-stricken former coal-miner to find the love of his life with the nurse who took care of him after his last stroke: In his deep and mysterious ways, the Lord has provided happiness for him after all, and all the rest of his dreadful life was just a 'lesson' for him - also, provided, free and without obligations of course, by the Lord himself!

Gotamo Siddharto posited that the direction to which the flag shows is a result of going through life, no matter to WHERE the flag is showing at any given moment.

A Being transcending this Universe can observe the change of destiny without being touched.

To reach a state of mind that facilitates this viewpoint, he proposed the following very basic exercise (which, in some aspects may well be the most basic exercise of all):

" - Whenever there is a pleasant feeling, the person notices: 'there is now a pleasant feeling'.

Whenever there is an UN-pleasant feeling, the person notices: 'there is now an UN-pleasant feeling'.

Whenever there is a neither pleasant nor UN-pleasant feeling, the person notices: 'there is now a neither pleasant nor UN-pleasant feeling'."

This must be far too simple for most sophisticated minds because, sure enough, there are many self-acclaimed 'Buddhists' who are quick to find reasons to never engage in this exercise or to supersede it with other 'more valuable' practices, such as punishing one's body by not giving it food or to whine about everything that ever happened to anybody in this Universe.

Yet, this process, as simple as it may appear at first glance, is profoundly effective (and tough, at times!).

People skilled in mind-bending exercises, will have recognized immediately that this practice can be used as a 'scanning process' to cover past events (feelings) as well. The even more 'advanced' amongst the readers, may want to use it to cover the 'future(s)' as well and (for the real tough ones!) 'scanning' may be abbreviated by 'holding the pleasant, un-pleasant, and neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant aspects of a subject at the same time in one's mind' (until it cracks up, hmmm).

In any case, the state of mind reached by this exercise has been called 'upekkha' in Gotamo's time. There is no English equivalent for this word, so people translate it often as 'equanimity'.

For the superficial observer who never engaged in this exercise, this state can (and is) easily be confused with 'indifference'. But 'indifference' is, if we look at the process again, just an aspect of the third step of the exercise itself and not its result.

This mistaking of 'upekkha' as 'indifference' prompts the view that this way of seeing things would be 'cruel' or 'heartless'.

Quite the opposite is true, however!

(Which the reader, if s/he doesn't know it already, would find out very soon if s/he would decide to  give it a try!)

Copyleft © 1998 by Maximilian J. Sandor, Ph.D.