Thursday, August 6, 2009
When I was really little I remember sitting at the kitchen table at my grandparents house eating my breakfast, and I was observing a bug on my forearm. Nana suddenly focused on my forearm. “Is that a mole?” she asked. I must not have answered right away because I heard her ask again, “What is that?”
I looked at her and gestured with my other hand, “A bug,” I said as I was reaching for a bite of food.
Her eyes widened. “That’s a tick!” she said while reaching for my forearm. “Frank (my grandpa), she has a tick on her arm!” They discussed what to do and explained to me that we shouldn’t allow ticks to be on our skin. I think they might have heated up some tweezers and picked it off my skin.
They alarmed me, but the tick hadn’t. I thought bugs were really interesting. I played with them, but Nana and Grandpa weren’t playing around with this tick. It was bad.
In this case I hadn’t yet learned about ticks. And because I didn’t know that it wasn’t good for me, I was content to watch it and eat my breakfast.
The tick of my childhood is similar to judgmental thoughts in my adulthood. Ticks feed on blood, and judgmental thoughts feed on valuable mental resources. And picking out a vampiric, non-helpful thought may also rely on discernment. How might I see that a thought doesn’t belong? When it came to the tick, Nana showed me that it didn’t belong on my skin. But, how can I learn to discern where not to use my mental energy?
“In the Sufi tradition it is suggested that our thoughts should pass through three gates. At the first gate, we ask of our thought, “Is it true?” If so, we let the thought pass through to the second gate, where we ask, “Is it necessary or useful?” If this also is so, we let the thought continue on its way to the third gate, where we ask, “Is this thought rooted in love and kindness?” Judgmental thoughts, which are neither true, helpful or kind, falter at the gates.”
-Christina Feldman, Shambhala Sun, September 2009
These “gates” from the Sufi tradition support a growing awareness of one’s thoughts, and provide a framework for discerning non-helpful thoughts. …so we might be less likely to entertain mental “ticks.”