“Birth, aging, illness, and death: these things are normal. Birth is the normal way of things, aging’s the normal way of things, illness and death are the normal way of things. Get so that you can see clearly that this is the way things normally are. That’s when a sense of disenchantment can arise. You’ll be able to loosen the grip that these things have on you. You’ll be able to pull them out, root and all.
“We’ve suffered as the slaves of defilement and craving for how long now? Can you remember? Ask yourself. Can you remember all you’ve been through? And how much longer are you going to let it keep on happening — this holding and carrying and weighing yourself down? How many eons have you been doing this? Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of eons. Can you count them all? Of course you can’t. And how much longer will you have to keep on suffering in this way? If you’re still stubborn, still unwilling to listen to the Buddha’s teachings, this is the kind of reward you’ll have to expect out of life. Do you want it? Do you like it? If you don’t want it, then you’ll have to develop the goodness of your mind so that you can see your way out of this, so that you can see your defilements, so that you can see the suffering and harm they cause.”
~Ajahn Fuang Jotiko (source)
In her book Meditation for Beginners: Techniques for Awareness, Mindfulness & Relaxation (©2002), Dr. Stephanie Clement muses a bit about altered states of mind:
In the sixties, we thought an altered state of mind was something induced by drugs. Not that drugs are anything new; alcoholic beverages alter one’s consciousness, and they have been around since about the beginning of recorded history or longer. Opiates have been used for both medicinal and recreational purposes since the first century or earlier. Coffee and chocolate alter the brain’s chemistry, and thus the state of consciousness. Some of us are affected by the weather.
With the introduction of Hinduism and Buddhism in the West, we have incorporated some of the basic principles of mind-altering practices into our daily language. We joke about good or bad karma (a Sanskrit term). Whe we say, “Give me space,” oftentimes what we really mean is “Give me both the time and space I need to think.”
Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we alter our minds with television, the Internet, and electronic games. Using technology, we can enter a virtual reality and experience something very like the real deal. We use aromatherapy to soothe our bodies and minds. We use headphones to shut out ambient reality and to create a different one for ourselves. We have dozens of ways to tune in, tune out, and turn on.
Actually, we enter an altered state of consciousness very frequently.
“Meditation is not meant to help us avoid problems or run away from difficulties. It is meant to allow positive healing to take place. To meditate is to learn how to stop– to stop being carried away by our regrets about the past, our anger or despair in the present, or our worries about the future.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh (via)
(It seems kind of odd to have included background music on this one, but they did. Towards the end he’s a little hard to hear.)
“To be mindful means to have metta towards the fear in your mind, or the anger, or the jealousy. Metta means not creating problems around existing conditions, allowing them to fade away, to cease. For example, when fear comes up in your mind, you can have metta for the fear — meaning that you don’t build up aversion to it, you can just accept its presence and allow it to cease. You can also minimize the fear by recognizing that it is the same kind of fear that everyone has, that animals have. It’s not my fear, it’s not a person’s, it’s an impersonal fear.” ~from Mindfulness: The Path to Deathlessness: The Meditation Teaching of Venerable Ajahn Sumedho. (via Dhamma Footsteps)
The last bit certainly mimics my own experiences with fear, depression, and anxiety. I picture them as sort of a fog that descends, looking for a little niche in which to insert itself.
What it actually finds to attach itself to is almost irrelevant.