Consciousness is like a House

Excerpt from “Touching Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh

According to Buddhist psychology, our consciousness is divided into two parts, like a house with two floors.  On the ground floor is the living room, and we call this “mind consciousness.” Below the ground level, there is a basement, and we call this “store Consciousness.”  In store consciousness, everything we have ever done, experienced, or perceived is stored in the form of a seed, or a film.  Our basement is an archive of every imaginable kind of film store on a video cassette.  Upstairs in the living room, we sit in a chair and watch thee films as they are brought up from the basement.

Certain movies, such as Anger, Fear, or Despair, seem to have the ability to come up from the basement all by themselves.  They open the door to the living room and pop themselves into our video cassette recorder whether we choose them or not.  When that happens, we feel stuck, and we have no choice but to watch them.  Fortunately, each film has a limited length, and when it is over, it returns to the basement.  But each time it is viewed by us, it establishes a better position on the archive shelf, and we know it will return soon.  Sometimes a stimulus from outside, like someone saying something that hurts our feelings, triggers the showing of a film on our TV screen.  We spend so much of our time watching these films, and many of them are destroying us.  Learning how to stop them is important for our well-being.

Traditional texts describe consciousness as a field, a plot of land where every kind of seed can be planted – seeds of suffering, happiness, joy, and sorrow, fear, anger, and hope.  Store consciousness is also described as a store house filled with all our seeds.  When a seed manifests in our mind consciousness, it always returns to the storehouse stronger.  The quality of our life depends on the quality of the seeds in our store consciousness.

For us to be happy, we need to water the seed of mindfulness that is in us.  Mindfulness is the seed of enlightenment, awareness, understanding, care, compassion, liberation, transformation, and healing.  If we practice mindfulness, we get in touch with the refreshing and joyful aspects of life in us and around us, the things we are not able to touch when we live in forgetfulness.  Mindfulness makes things like our eyes, our heart, our non-toothache, the beautiful moon, and the trees deeper and more beautiful.  If we touch these wonderful things with mindfulness, they will reveal their full splendor.  When we touch our pain with mindfulness, we will begin to transform it.

Our consciousness is the totality of our seeds, the totality of our films.  If the good seeds are strong, we will have more happiness.  Meditation helps the seed of mindfulness grow and develop as the light within us.  If we practice mindful living, we will know hows to water the seeds of joy and transform the seeds of sorrow and suffering so that understanding, compassion, and loving kindness will flower in us.

About Still Water Sangha of MN

We are a community, formed with enthusiasm and joy, practicing Mindfulness and Meditation together in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. We meet on Monday nights from 7-8:30pm in a private home in Stillwater, Minnesota.
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