Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Memories II

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
— William Shakespeare, As You Like It

In my last post about memories, I wrote about why cleaning or "erasing" our memories about our departed spouse might be a good thing. One method you can use to clean your memories comes from Hawaii and is called Ho'oponopono (pronounced ho-o-pono-pono). Here's a better explanation from their website:

Ho'oponopono is really very simple. For the ancient Hawaiians, all problems begin as thought. But having a thought is not the problem. So what's the problem? The problem is that all our thoughts are imbued with painful memories, memories of persons, places, or things.

The intellect working alone can't solve these problems, because the intellect only manages. Managing things is no way to solve problems. You want to let them go! When you do Ho'oponopono, what happens is that the Divinity takes the painful thought and neutralizes or purifies it. You don't purify the person, place, or thing. You neutralize the energy you associate with that person, place or thing. So the first stage of Ho'oponopono is the purification of that energy.

Now something wonderful happens. Not only does that energy get neutralized; it also gets released, so there's a brand new slate. Buddhists call it the Void. The final step is that you allow the Divinity to come in and fill the void with light.

To do Ho'oponopono, you don't have to know what the problem or error is. All you have to do is notice any problem you are experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever. Once you notice, your responsibility is to immediately begin to clean, to say, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

The whole article is a very interesting read and well worth your time if any of this sounds the slightest bit interesting.

In the first part of this Memories article, I promised I would explain a bit more about how, due to my Vipassana meditation course, I could immediately see the wisdom behind Ho'oponopono, even if I did think it was a little weird. OK, a lot weird ;-) I've taken an extra day to really give this memories concept a lot of thought, and I think I've come up with a good analogy to help explain things a bit better.

As I explained in detail last month, my Vipassana training made me aware of the tight interactions between my thoughts and my bodily sensations. And more than that — it made me aware of the previously-unconscious pattern of events that had been driving me my entire life:

Thought -> Feeling -> Reaction

As I became more adept at meditating, it became easier and easier to break the last step in the chain. I learned how to replace reacting with observing. I became aware of my mind postulating a thought and immediately feeling a sensation somewhere in my body. For example, if the thought pertained to how I was going to achieve a financial goal, I could right away feel not only my brow furrowing, but I could feel every single brow-furrowing muscle tense as the beginnings of worry and anxiety set in. The difference now was that instead of reacting by probing my mind for even more thoughts and possible solutions and setting off an entire chain of thoughts -> feelings -> reactions, I simply recognized the impermanent nature of both the thought and the feeling. I wasn't thinking or feeling anxious moments before. Why then should I become a slave to my thoughts and start to worry just because I had a thought?

By understanding the pattern of thought, feeling, reaction, I could mentally utter "anicca," and right away I could feel my facial muscles relax, my worry evaporated, and I found myself smiling. I was now observing my life objectively instead of reacting subjectively. It was like suddenly being aware that the huge drama I had been watching for years was just a big puppet show. Only now I recognized myself as the marionette and my thoughts as the puppeteer. And now I knew how to cut the strings :-)

For the last month, it has been absolutely amazing to literally snip the strings before any new dramas can even begin. I no longer feel like I'm being driven against my will to think negatively or blindly react to people or events. Instead, I just smile, say "anicca," and laugh as the problem vaporizes. There was no problem before I thought about it, and after I break the thought -> feeling -> reaction cycle, the problem returns to the void from whence it came. I can just be, I don't have to do anything! It has changed my life.

In my next post, I'll close off this short series by pointing out the similarities between Vipassana and Ho'oponopono, and I'll give some concrete examples of how these methods can help in dealing with bereavement.

Oh yeah: anicca is my new cussword ;-)

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