Qiu Li Hui
“Human beings have the ability to place their awareness wherever they choose. That’s part of the gift of being a human being. That is also the responsibility of being a human being.”
• Dr. Mitchell May in “Drip Meditation”
A few years ago, Lapis Lazuli Light (LLL) has published a book and DVD by Dr. Mitchell May, which were a tremendous help to my spiritual practice. Among which, I recalled his words: “we are possessed by the past.” shook me to my core.
This year, a friend reciprocated my gift of book to her with more good books and one of them is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. This book described “the pain body” and defined what is meant by ‘possessed by the past’ in greater detail. In Tolle’s words:
“The greater part of most people’s thinking is involuntary, automatic, and repetitive. It is no more than a kind of mental static and fulfils no real purpose. Strictly speaking, you don’t think; Thinking happens to you. The statement “I think” implies volition. It implies that you have a say in the matter, that there is choice involved on your part. For most people, this is not yet the case. “I think” is just as false a statement as “I digest” or “I circulate my blood.” Digestion happens, circulation happens, thinking happens. The voice in the head has a life of its own. Most people are at the mercy of that voice; they are possessed by thought, by the mind. And since the mind is conditioned by the past, you are then forced to re-enact the past again and again. The Eastern term for this is karma. When you are identified with that voice, you don’t know this, of course. If you knew it, you would no longer be possessed.
“The physical organism, your body, has its own intelligence, as does the organism of every other life form. And that intelligence reacts to what your mind is saying, reacts to your thoughts. So emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind.” The body has no choice and “it cannot but respond to all the dysfunctional thought patterns that make up the ego. Thus, a stream of negative emotion accompanies the stream of incessant and compulsive thinking.”
This description evoked a memory:
Many years ago, LLL held a workshop in Thailand and I was bringing 75 participants from Taiwan to attend. A volunteer from Thailand conveyed the message from the airline, requesting us to confirm our bookings. Otherwise, the bookings would be cancelled. We were also informed that the seat bookings of our 2 members were not secured yet. It was just after the tsunami and the airline was having a promotion that resulted in the flights being fully booked. Hearing this, I panicked and rushed to my colleague in charge of the bookings in the restaurant. She had just finished her meal with 2 coconuts still on the table. After I told her about this matter, she responded with a nod and continued with her coconut drink. I stood there waiting. She emptied the coconuts of water and started for the coconut flesh. Finally, I exploded with anger, yelling at her, “How long do you want me to wait? If you do not call back soon, all our seats will be cancelled. Can you be responsible for this?”
As I watched her stood up and walked out reluctantly, I deeply experienced the taste of “mind attacked by rage”. This rage nearly exploded my head. At that point, I suddenly remembered a story from Dr. Lai. One of her teachers was sharing about her spiritual growth and learning to be grateful. No matter what happened, she would say “thank you”. Even at one incident where she dropped and broke a bowl of soup, she said “thank you.” So, I really wanted to give that colleague a kick but I forced myself to say “thank you” in my heart. At the beginning, it was difficult and I really did not want to thank her. But, amazingly, once I started to say “thank you” in my heart, the anger abated, and the angry energy was gone. And I started to recall the excursion to the National Park we went the previous day. She (being quite chubby) ran up and down the buses, ensuring that everyone was accounted for in each bus in a manner so responsible. My heart sincerely just wanted to tell her “thank you”!
Later, calmly, I told her that if I were her, I would have stood up immediately and hand over the booking information, and then return to the coconut water. I asked her why she was so different. She said that she could not leave the table until she finished her food. A hypnotist teacher once read her past and shared that she was starved to death in one past life. Therefore, eating a full meal is more important to her than anything else.
[Because] the past lives in you as memories.. [and] because of the human tendency to perpetuate old emotion, almost everyone carries in his or her energy filed an accumulation of old emotional pain, which I call “the pain-body.” (p. 140)
Hence, if we do not release the past, repair the emotional scars caused by life experiences, we will be “possessed by the past.”
Observe how you and those around you react to a particular matter or thing. We really have different reactions.
Our fears, sadness, hatred, arrogance, timidity are a result of baggage from the past and constrained by the “pain-body’. The circumstances are the way they are, but it is our views and beliefs that form our emotional reactions to them.
In our body, observe the emotional reactions that are a result of the mind. Be aware that at this moment, I am “creating pain” for myself, and tell myself that “every moment, I am responsible for my internal emotional state”. When we begin to do that, we are beginning to be aware or conscious of the contents from the unconscious mind.
Then, following our own affinity, religious beliefs or the methods we learn before, apply a technique to transform and heal.
This colleague whom I mentioned earlier participated in several Thousand-Arm Kwan Yin retreats which require fasting. As she overcomes the experience of hunger and fasting, her previous eating habit stops.
For me, whenever I am aware that I am ‘possessed by the past’, I would first tap the acupoints, the method taught by Dr. Lai, to release the memory cells. Then I proceed with Dr. May’s method to transform.
Of course, as what a spiritual teacher advises, practice is cumulative over time and not a rapid turn. If who we are today is an improvement from yesterday, that is progress.
I remembered that time when Dr. Lai and I returned to Taiwan from Xinjiang. Due to heaty-ness, the pain in my gums was intolerable. My dentist could only see me two days later. But over the phone, I exclaimed, “No! I want to see you immediately NOW!” Dr. Lai observed that and reminded me, “Gosh! Your old habits of the Prime Minister [past life] is really serious.” I reflected on how I treat people and conduct myself – my domineering attitude reveals itself quite frequently and unconsciously.
I recall poor Mr Li Nan (volunteer editor for Lapis magazine) who is always asked by me in great urgency to stop everything at hand and help edit our magazine immediately. He would sigh and ask, “What did I owe you in my past life?” I always jokingly replied, “Because you often rode on a white horse to my house to drink tea, and you never paid for the tea!”.
Once on a trip to Wutai Mountain in Jiangxi, I saw some ancient pots that might have evoked some memories from my past lives. I could not stop myself from buying the pots. I think we are not only influenced by our past emotional scars, but also by our interactions with people, our likes and dislikes of things.
Let us now diligently practise being an observer of our inner self. Every time we are aware that our breathing gets faster and negative emotions arise, pay attention to our mind. Our mental state is like a restless monkey jumping around. Then return to observe our breath immediately, send blessings from our heart and say thank you. Tell ourselves: now, the “pain body” from the past is here again.
On occasions that the other party is being really unreasonable, the moment we are aware of our own emotions, in our heart try to empathise that the other party is also in the pain of being “possessed by their past”. Then our emotions will calm down quickly.
Extract from another good book written by Tolle, “Practicing the Power of Now”:
“The pain-body, which is the dark shadow cast by the ego, is actually afraid of the light of your consciousness. It is afraid of being found out. Its survival depends on your unconscious identification with it, as well as on your unconscious fear of facing the pain that lives in you. But if you don’t face it, if you don’t bring the light of your consciousness into the pain, you will be forced to relive it again and again and sustained conscious attention severs the link between the pain body and your thought processes and brings about the process of transmutation. “
“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life. The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. “
“On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. In other words, the more you are identified with your mind, the more you suffer. The more you are able to honour and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering – and free of the egoic mind.”
Dr May said:
“A great deal of spiritual practice is really about breaking habits. Because once we break these habits”, we are no longer constrained by the egoic mind, “then the true self is free to show itself.”
“How do we begin this healing with ourselves? And what do we need to do for that to happen?” “You can use negative thoughts as teachers. Because they will show you where you have mental states that need healing.” “And they take some time to release the rhythm or the pattern for the habit of where they come from. Most of us suffer from this greatly. When you have negative thoughts come, at first, of course you’re not aware of them, and they kind of take over for, it might be two seconds, but it might be five minutes before you realise. The important aspect is when you do become aware of them to stop for a moment, and it’s almost as if you turn to face them, and for me, I bow to them. And I thank them. For coming to show me:
Where I need liberation.
Where I still suffer.
Where I am unaware.
“And at first, for most of us, we won’t be able to just make those thoughts stop. So when a thought comes that is not helping you or helping others, and you notice it, then you need to create the opposite thoughts. I’ll give you an example.”
“If you are upset at somebody else, and every time you think of this person, whether you see them or they come to your mind, you start to grumble and think not-so-nice things about that person, what you need to do, if you made the commitment to change, is you need to bless that person. And this is a big commitment. And changing has nothing to do with whether this person you are mad at is good or bad or right or wrong. It’s about you.”
“You have to usually begin very small when you bless them because it’s very hard for us to change from being mad to blessing. So you can give this person a small blessing. A small blessing may be, “Oh! I hope their day isn’t too bad.” And then the next day, it will be time for you to give a bigger blessing: ‘Oh! I want them to have a good day.’ If your mind has resistance, you must bless them again. With time, your negativity will begin to evaporate. And that blessing will grow larger and larger.”
Nowadays, I love to listen to the sound of the flute played by Dr. May every morning and before sleep, allowing my breathing to follow the flute and feeling myself going into a deep calmness. As I experience this inner peace more often, it becomes easier to be aware of changes in my body when external situations trigger my “pain-body”.
“When we are aware that we were controlled by the “pain body”, it severed the link between it and our thinking, the “pain body” begins to lose energy. We changed the vibrational frequency of the “pain body” and transform it with the energy of blessings.” — Tolle
“We need to let go, release, give up certain things so that something new can come into our lives. Prayers can bring into your life, more wisdom, more forgiveness, more understanding, more compassion, and to invite more of the qualities you want into your life.” — Dr. May
However, if our ingrained habits are hard to transmute, there is a good method for Buddhists. Extracted from an article in November 2010 issue (Lapis Magazine), Spirituality column (p.17):
“If this person has habitual patterns that cannot be eliminated, you can teach this person to recite the Shurangama mantra. It would be like putting dust (our habits) in the wind of the mantra. Allow the mantra to help clear your habitual patterns with no difficulty and hindrance.“
After reading that the Shurangama mantra can eliminate bad habits, I am thrilled.
Let us send blessing to ourselves – that we may quickly be liberated from the “pain-body”, be free from the habits of our small ego, and re-connect to our Higher Self.
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle. Publisher: Penguin Group.
Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises From The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Publisher: New World Library.
Drip Meditation, by Dr. Mitchell May. Publisher: Lapis Lazuli Light.
Original Chinese article is published in the Nov 2010 issue of Lapis magazine