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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Hot Buddha Sweats; Cold Buddha Shivers

It’s been record-breaking temperatures in New York and
elsewhere on the East Coast this week. Oppressive heat and humidity. Record
demands on electricity as everyone seeks to cool off. It’s a real challenge in
acceptance and one not easily met. There is important information in this
severe heat and we must take precautions against heat exhaustion. But beyond
staying safe, the heat is just uncomfortable. There is a saying,
“Hot Buddha Sweats; Cold Buddha Shivers.” This wisdom is timely. We
can examine the heat from four different perspectives, or levels like the
stories in a building. On the ground floor are the sensations that arise from
being hot. These include sweating, a sense of warmth, increased body temperate,
and so forth. Here there are just sensations. No judgments. No complaints. It’s
objective. The brain’s job is to make sense of these sensations and this occurs
on the second and third floors of the building. On the second floor the brain
recognize the pattern of sensation as “hot.” For most of us, this kind of heat
and humidity is unpleasant. So the brain continues to do its job on the third
floor by registering a feeling tone to the experience. Is this pleasant,
unpleasant, or neutral (in other words, should I approach this, avoid this, or
ignore this)? On the fourth floor we begin to have conscious thoughts. Because
the heat may contain important safety information we need to keep our brain
online to evaluate if we are getting enough water and not exerting ourselves to
the point of heat exhaustion. These thoughts are adaptive and necessary.
Meanwhile, we are likely to have other thoughts and these thoughts are neither
adaptive nor necessary. This is where the mind complains, “I can’t stand this
heat!” “When is this going to end?” And it is here that distress arises. What would happen, however, if we came
down from the fourth floor and its complaints about the heat and paid attention
to the sensations on the ground floor? Hot Buddha sweats. We’d just be hot Buddhas,
that’s all. No distress; just perspiration.

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In Northern Vermont it’s also helpful to remember that
such heat is very impermanent and that it was snowing on Mother’s Day not too
long ago. We longed for warmth then. So we can embrace the heat, once we make
sure we are safe and enjoy the summer as it is. And if climate change science
is correct, there are a lot more hot days ahead.

*Image courtesy of NASA 

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