Our Security Blankets

Summary: A meditator brought up the topic of children and their security blankets. Sathi talks about both our physical and mental security blankets. He told two stories about the Buddha showing how strongly we sometimes want to hold on to our mental security blankets even if it causes us pain. “Oh no! Don’t take that away from me!”

Sathi elaborates on how mindfulness allows you to have a clear mind when you are experiencing discomfort, allow you to take the right action.

[Sathi] Any questions or any suggestions for discussion?

[A Meditator] Security blankets. It’s an unconscious attachment. Something that provides protection against fear. We see it in children, but, as adults, we do the same thing. We are attached to things to protect us from unconscious fear. What are your thoughts about this?

[Sathi] We are reforming ourselves. We are looking for a comfortable place for ourselves. This place [can be seen] in two different ways, physical and mental. For the physical, the most secure and comfortable place, we call home.

As soon as you are inside your door, at home, you feel you are safe. As long as you are outside, you have to be alert, careful, and [pay] extra attention. That security [in your home] comes with no worries. Because when you come into your house you don’t feel like you have to worry because you know everyone inside, you know everything inside of the house.

In the case where you feel that a stranger or thief has entered your house, then you don’t feel safe anymore because there is a stranger inside your place.

If we apply this same thing to your mental place. Security brings us comfort. We are recreating “my place”, “my home”, “my mental home” with no fear. From time to time this place can be changed. But, once you claim someplace [thoughts] as “my mental place”, you will start to be protective of these thoughts. Even if it is painful and uncomfortable. We are protecting that.

If somebody says, “Oh, this [idea] is better than [your] idea.”

Still, you may say “I’m okay with this [thought]. I’m comfortable with this. I’m much more comfortable being in this place.”

The reason is, without moving ourselves into this unknown, insecure place… So, from childhood, if we don’t think we have those things right now… Children may have a blanket or a doll, or something little. But, now [as an adult] you may have something BIG. You can’t compare it to a blanket. That is why you don’t see [or notice] it.

Nobody can say I don’t have such a [security] thing right now.

If this [sense of] security is related to something physical, it is changeable and impermanent. Think about how many houses you have moved to in your lifetime. Apartments, houses. Every time you moved into a new house, claiming it as your new home, the previous house was not yours any longer. You may have some connections, but now you are in [this new house]. So, that bond [with the old place] is slowly going away.

It is the same with a new phone, computer, whatever. Whatever you call as “mine”, when moving to a new “mine” [object], that old object is slowly going away from you.

So, those [physical “security blankets”] are changing.

But, your ideas, your strong beliefs, that you call “yourself”. Those are also impermanent, but much more slowly. For physical things, they can be replaced quickly. But, for mental “home” it is not as easily replaced as your physical comforts.

There’s a story from Buddha’s time. After he became the Buddha, he was thinking that this understanding, this wisdom is so deep. I should look for people who will be able to understand this and who are open to understanding this.

So, first he found his five colleagues who was helping him. He went to them. He went to another religious group and he thought, “If they are open their minds will be able to grasp this.” He delivered a sermon to them and they also got it.

Then, afterward, he was thinking. I have been traveling the last six years and seeking place-to-place, all these religious places and schools to find the spiritual practices of the people.

Now, who can understand these [ideas] among those [groups]?

He was thinking about one group. It was a very big group, with good discipline. This particular person had about a thousand students. It was big. So, he thought, “If I can help this teacher to understand, all of the students will follow him and get these teachings.”

He traveled there.

But, one of the challenges was that this teacher thought that he was already enlightened. He had a big ego about this.

When the Buddha arrived at this place, this teacher thought, “He’s a little different then when he left here. He might be a teacher right now. He might be here to steal my students. So, I should not warmly welcome him. I should tell him we do not have space right now. We are full of students.”

Normally, when somebody arrives in the evening, there is a tradition that you give the guest a place to spend the night.

[The teacher told the Buddha, ] “Well, you can only stay tonight and leave tomorrow. The place where you can stay is only the kitchen. There is no other place. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a poisonous snake comes to this kitchen. Also, this is not the most comfortable place. Be careful while you are there.”

The Buddha said, “Okay. Thank you for giving me a place to stay.”

The following day [the teacher] sent his student with breakfast because he did not want the Buddha to come to the place where the others were having breakfast. When the student arrived [in the kitchen] with breakfast he saw the Buddha sleeping with the snake also sleeping close by.

Then, the student came back and said, “You know what? He has made friends with the snake!”

[The teacher ] thought, “Oh, he has gained special powers. But, he is not enlightened like me.”

The Buddha managed to stay one more day, one more day. It went on for three months. A lot of incidents happened during that time.

Each time [the instructor] was thinking, “Oh, he can do this. Oh, he understands this. But, he is not enlightened like me.”

Whenever [the teacher] was challenged, he sought help from the Buddha.

Even three months later [the teacher] was trying to figure it out. “Even though he can see this, he can understand this, but he is not enlightened like me.”

Then, [the teacher] began to realize, “Oh, he can do this. Oh, he is not really angry in this situation. But, I AM angry. Am I enlightened???”

When this doubt came [to the teacher] the Buddha spoke right away, “No, you are not. That’s why you are experiencing [this anger].”

It is hard for us to see beyond ourselves. To see against what we believe; what we used to believe. Even though we see something clearly, we bring excuses to defend it and to prove that we are right. Or, we act blindly. We don’t want to look at that at all. What we are believing is so strong. Because it has become our “home”. Our mental or spiritual home.

Because you feel comfort there. It is the same as when you walk into your house. Maybe it is messy. Maybe you need to clean a lot. Or, maybe your friend has a bigger TV and you don’t have a TV. Or, whatever you like, and your friend has a bigger one. but once you get into your own house, you feel safe. You feel you are relaxed.

Even though the people in the house are pushing you out, or screaming at you, making you uncomfortable. Still, you feel like it is your house. You are comfortable there.

That is why most of the spiritual teachers were saying, “If pain is yours, you like it.” Because you have claimed it as “mine”. It is mine, don’t take it away. We find comfort there.

If you bring mindfulness into this. Not really removing yourself from it. But, by bringing mindfulness, you can see [what is happening] clearly. The advantage is, that once you see it clearly, you will stop being a slave for those ideas or to yourself. Because you’ll see it clearly.

Right after you stop being a slave, you can see deeper. You can see more than what you saw before. That doesn’t mean that you are encouraging or supporting [the idea of] running away from it. No. That means you are supporting yourself to resolve matters that need attention, finding answers to the questions you may have that you haven’t seen before. Finding the gap that you need to fulfill.

You will have a clear picture.

But, if you happen to be a slave, the nature of slavery is that you are not the controller or you are not a critical thinker, or you don’t [think you] have a choice. You just being with it, following it blindly.

[For example, ] you clean your house one day. Then, a week or two later, you realize that your house is messy. People clean their house when they invite visitors to come. They are cleaning the house for their visitors, not for themselves. Why?

The reason is, when they don’t have that “outside” mindset, they don’t see the mess. Right after they put this “outside” mind on, they think, “Oh, I don’t want a visitor to see this.” [This mess] is something you have seen for a long time. But, right after you place this visitor’s mind you think, “Oh, there is a mess. I need to clean it up.”

That means that you are stepping out of your “home” mind. Did you make the mess intentionally? No. It just happened. Because you are being home.

The same thing is happening in your mind. Your behaviors, your attitudes, habits. Because it has been part of our mental home, our comfort. So, we are attached to that blindly because that brings us pain. We like the pain. We don’t want to hear this, but, we like the pain.

If you do a workout, you like the pain after the workout. You feel good. The chili eaters like the pain. Even eating salt is part of the pain, but, we don’t realize it. Eating sugar is part of the pain. Think about it, if you happen to eat too much sugar, what happens to you? You don’t like it.

We just like the pain we can handle. When it goes over the limit, then we complain. All life’s activities. Most of you have a family with kids, right? You are enjoying it as long as they give little trouble. But, when they give trouble over the limit, then you start to complain. The same story with pets. As long as you can handle the pain, even when you are enjoying it. Most of the things you enjoy can be a complaint for another person.

But, when it goes over the limit of what you can handle, then, you start to complain.

Comfort. We are creating this comfort place for us. Being our “home”.

I hope I elaborated on this enough.

[Meditator] Thank you. So, it’s good to be uncomfortable.

[Sathi] Well, that’s what we like. It is not good or bad.

[Meditator] It’s beyond comfortable…

[Sathi] Not really, no. It is neither good nor bad, but, that is what we do. Waiting on uncomfortableness and looking for comfort.

So, let me bring you this example because it is very interesting. Twenty years after Buddha became the Buddha he returned to his [home]town. When he arrived he mentioned, “Even the wind from this town brings me comfort.”

People said, “Oh, you should have overcome all of that attachment. You shouldn’t have such attachments.”

He said, “No, it isn’t about attachments. This is truly about comfort. Going back to my home brings me comfort.”

It’s neither good or bad. It is what it is. But, it becomes good or bad if the person happens to be a slave to it. That is the point. If we become a slave, then we will blindly follow things that can become harmful.

[Meditator] How do we know if we are a slave?

[Sathi] Bringing your mindfulness you will notice it. If you happen to observe it mindfully, you can see the nature of being enslaved is bringing pain. The base of it is blind attachment.

[Meditator] In blindness we don’t see our attachment. We don’t.

[Sathi] That is why bringing mindfulness will help you to see it clearly. It is okay to go to your “home” and be comfortable mindfully.

[Another Meditator] I think, accidentally or intentionally, you answered another question that I had, this person was complaining to me about something. In my typical fashion I tried to say, “Why are you inviting suffering into your life? Don’t imagine these potential, adverse events.”

I think what you just said made me realize that she was enjoying it. She was enjoying the pain. It was not suffering. There was something delicious about it. “Then they will do this, and then they will do that…”

I guess I was being judgemental in that process.

[Sathi] Yes, people are suffering without knowing. Because they are enjoying it. Their food is anger, frustration. They are finding something little to always engage with. Complain.

You may have seen people at work. If somebody is always complaining, they will find something little, always complaining and making stories. Always saying that they are right, they are perfect, [and that] the other person is wrong. Even if you point out that something is wrong with them, they will make an excuse, blaming someone else.

[A Meditator] Your story about the Buddha and the teacher who thought he was enlightened. The only way the teacher came to see that he was not enlightened was by welcoming or allowing that which threatened him to be present.

I think, for myself, that is a challenge. To allow that which threatens me. Whether it is allowing myself to be fully seen [by others] of things I’m ashamed of, whatever. To allow that which threatens my comfort. That is the only thing that allowed this teacher to get the teachings.

That’s a challenge for me. Allow things which feels threatening to me. Threatens my sense of comfort and knowing.

[Sathi] I think that is a challenge for most everybody. We always try to avoid discomfort and we are not allowing it to be. If you happen to have somebody unfriendly at your home you just want to get that person off quicker. And, you are not opening yourself to see, “Why am I being uncomfortable here?” There is not even a question like that. You are always thinking that the person is bad, or bringing badness, kick this person out. That’s our immediate attitude.

But, if we open ourselves and look at the discomfort. “What is this person doing?” If somebody is playing with fire inside the house, it is dangerous to keep that person. You are better to throw that person out of the house because it is a danger for everyone else.

But, if you don’t know why you are kicking that person out, that is troublesome. It is because of discomfort.

[A Meditator] If we can see or witness why we are feeling this way. lt also gives us an opportunity to grow.

[Sathi] You can see it. Because when you have that mind, that openness. But, all the time we don’t welcome in that way. That is a mindful way you are describing. You will say, “This is an opportunity for me to grow. This is a challenge.”

Sometimes some people like new challenges. When the [opportunity] comes to overcome a new challenge, they are welcoming it to learn. That mindset comes with determination and openness and all of those. But, in the ordinary way of life, we don’t carry that all the time.

The answer would be, if we train this mindful way. Then, you will be able to apply that. The first thing that will happen, you will stop fighting and have a clear picture. That clear picture will allow you to take the right action.

Recorded on February 1, 2020, at the Meditation Center in Chaska, Minnesota.

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