CREDOS: Open heart — II

Normally, we hear sounds, taste tastes, or experience emotions, and immediately make a decision around them based on a whole complex of conditioning that arises. We like something, we don’t like something, and instantly our mind has already jumped ahead, drawing conclusions based on those reactions.

One of my favourite examples of this tendency comes from when we first started the Insight Meditation Society 25 years ago, and some of our friends asked us to teach a course for their parents.

One woman, who was dismayed at the prospect of the course, said her mother was the kind of woman who would march into the office the first morning and say, “Those goddamn birds kept me up all night!” And she did exactly that. But within just a few days of beginning to meditate, the mother was hearing those birds in a different way. She thought the sound and her reaction to the sound were one thing—that chattering birds make her angry. But they’re really not the same thing. And when her perception of the sound changed—when she began to loose her grip on her conditioned response—so did her reaction.

Another example of how our conditioning shapes our experience comes from my time studying in Burma. One day at lunch, I bit down on a whole pepper and my mouth just caught fire. Soon after, I had an interview with my teacher, Sayadaw Upandita. —