Getting on the Right Thought Bus

After college, I spent time in Sri Lanka doing intensive meditation practice at various Buddhist monasteries and centers. My family is originally from Sri Lanka, but I was born and raised in the US, so while I could speak conversationally, I was not good at reading. I could read slowly like a small child, but certainly not fluently.

 During this period, I traveled around a lot by public bus. In order to take the bus, you had to stand by the side of the road, and when you saw your bus coming, you’d wave it down to get on.

 The trouble was, I could only read the destination signs on the front of the bus very slowly. I would see a bus coming and try to read the sign on the front: “Co…..Lo….” Zoom! The bus would be gone before I could finish reading the destination. Another one would come by: “Ku….Ru…” Zoom! Sometimes I would guess based on the first two written characters, flag the bus to get on, and finish reading from the inside of the bus, stopping the bus as fast as I could if I had guessed wrong!

As I studied the language more, I got better at reading. After a while, I could read the signs well and know which was my bus more quickly. I flagged down the right bus and avoided the wrong buses with ease. I spent less time on buses going in the wrong direction and was able to have smoother, faster trips to my intended destinations. I traveled with less confusion and more confidence.

Consider your mind being like that bus stop. All kinds of thought-buses are coming through, heading to various destinations: work projects, childhood memories, creative ideas, revenge fantasies, cravings for chocolate, vacation plans, remembered deadlines. The untrained mind can’t read the destination signs, and often gets on a bus without realizing what the destination is! Distractions abound, and we often end up in places we did not want to be.

For instance, getting on the “Jealousy Bus” leads to a bleak wasteland full of fear, aggression, obsession, stalking your ex, burning garbage, large rodents… you do not want to get on that bus! On the other hand, the “Generosity Bus” leads to a place that is spacious, happy, relaxed, and energized. That’s a good one to board.

Getting on the right thought-bus means learning how to read the destination signs -- in other words, the signals in your mind, heart, and body. You can recognize the intentions, emotions and thoughts in a particular moment just like I learned to read the destination signs on the buses: “Ah! This is the Jealousy Bus! I know where this is headed.” And you can learn to get on the buses that are helpful and skip the ones that are not.

 Eventually, just like in a bus system, if nobody is riding the buses that go to an unpopular destination, they will stop running as often…. and eventually stop running at all.

Of course, that takes time, and meanwhile, you will often get on the wrong bus. But each trip can be seen as an opportunity to learn. You can develop your understanding of difficult states of mind, connecting with their challenges and learning to know them sooner and sooner. You will also learn about the beautiful states of mind and the happiness that they bring. With practice, you can become more effective in whatever you are trying to do in your life -- as well as at least 10% happier!

Experience Anushka's take on what to do with thoughts when they arise. In this meditation you'll begin to find a reason not to believe everything the thinking mind throws at you and see past the sham of even the most convincing thoughts.

Anushka Fernandopulle