My son, as a three-year-old, needed a few vials of blood drawn for testing. The geniuses at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, used not the typical syringe/needle method for this task. Instead, the device was a needle connected to a bag, by way of a thin, clear tube, nearly two feet in length. If you’ve ever given blood, you’re probably familiar with such a set-up.
My son sat in my lap, both of us facing the nurse, who was sitting in directly in front of us. The bag rested in her lap. As the needle pierced my son’s skin, he let out a cry. But, not one second later, he was fascinated by the movement of a thin line of red traveling away from him, along the flexible plastic tube. No fear or pain was evident.
Where did the pain go? Was the needle-in-the-arm still painful? If so, would the pain reappear if my son became uninterested in the path of the red line? Would the fear return, as well? The situation in the first few instants, was virtually the same as in the next few, except for awareness.
What is distraction? Are we distracted from pain by a change in focus? Or is a situation painful, because we are distracted by what we think is occurring? We are almost constantly mesmerized by what we think is going on.
Zen practice invites us to wonder about our assumptions of reality. It is not an intellectual pursuit that seeks for more explanations, but a gentle and compassionate noticing, that reveals layers of relative truths falsely supporting our actions. It is not to negate or dismiss this ebb and flow of life; this natural unfolding that arises as ease or difficulty. Rather, it is to notice the assumptions that bring about the rollercoaster of dissatisfaction; the pain and fear of not getting what we want, the pain and fear of losing what we have. It is the assumption of a persistent and independent self, that is at the heart of this. But don’t take my word for it. Begin to notice and question assumptions.
© 2011 Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.