The February 12 NYTimes article by Christy Wampole effectively re-states what my two prior posts have done. Entitled “In Praise of Disregard” she advises the reader to learn to analyze their life’s challenges, difficulties, criticisms, take wisdom from the ones that can help and disregard the rest.
This is an active process. As I have written about previously, the Serenity Prayer sets the model for dealing with life’s adversity. Serenity is a term like happiness, peace and contentment. It represents an ideal state of being. It is the goal of spiritual leaders since the dawn of time. Wampole states, ” it is possible to subdue those ideas that do violence to us. Ideas are given credence only when they are entertained. By disregarding them we can erode much of their influence.”
A crucial aspect of this willful act of disregarding is to recognize the nature of the mind. Essentially we can only hold one thought at a time. Contrary to the belief that we are engaged in multitasking on a continuous basis, the truth is that when we believe we are multitasking, we are merely alternating thoughts rapidly. Once we realize that thoughts and feelings can only be experienced one at a time, we can appreciate why being able to disregard, or practice nonattachment through conscious action or the meditative state leads to healing.
It is necessary to distinguish this activity from denial. Ignoring real world problems because they are difficult or painful is just foolish. But having acknowledged them, made every reasonable effort to deal with them, we need to let them go. It is the obsessive rumination, the constant worry, the resultant fear of the future and the unknown that leads us to suffer in the present moment. When suffering and tragedy find us (as they inevitably do) we can experience them then, in that moment, and hopefully not too soon.