Starting where you are:
Bewilderment and Suffering

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Do you think of yourself as bewildered at times? How so?

We are — most of us — in a state of bewilderment.

Our bewildered mind is continually distracted. Lost in discursiveness and self-absorption, it's unable to cope. When the unexpected occurs, it reacts from the limited perspective of wanting to stay happy in a small place. If we're threatened, we strike out with anger. If somebody has something we want, automatically we feel jealous.

Does this describe you? Think how this description does describe you and spend some time reflecting on the characteristics of your bewilderment.

Basic bewilderment starts with not even knowing what our mind is.

In our life (and, as you’ll see, in practice of meditation) there is a tendency to keep going without resting. We feel that we must keep going and doing more and more in order to understand what is going on in our life. We're stuck in the middle of this hurricane, and we're not sure how things fit together. But we have to realize what is going on in our life as a whole and begin to understand the whole conundrum of this life and this mind.

Lottery mind

With an untrained mind, we live most days of our lives at the mercy of our moods. Waking up in the morning is like gambling: "What mind did I end up with today? Is it the irritated mind, the happy mind, the anxious mind, the angry mind, the compassionate mind, or the loving mind?"

Most of the time we believe that the mind-set we have is who we are and we live our day from it. We meditate on it. We don't question it. Whether we wake up feeling dread or excitement or just feeling sleepy, the propelling motivation is simply wanting things to go well for "me."


Do you live at the mercy of your moods? Do you hope that feeling good and things going well will be the result of you roll of the dice? Do you feel that your state of mind is something outside of you, like the weather?

Wild horse

The bewildered, untrained mind is like a wild horse. It runs away when we try to find it, shies when we try to approach it. If we find a way to ride it, it takes off with the bit in its teeth and finally throws us right into the mud. We think that the only way to steady it is to give it what it wants. We spend so much of our energy trying to satisfy and entertain this wild horse of a mind.

Have a nice day

Many of us labor mightily to keep our bewilderment at bay by creating a zone of comfort. We imagine a place that's not too hot, not too cold, but just right and then live from the motivation to keep ourselves in such a zone. We spend our lives constructing a personal zone where our solid sense of self feels comfortable and protected, where everything's just how we like it, and we work to keep it that way.

But of course it’s not. If we’ve decided that different aspects of our life must align in order for us to be happy, trying to perpetuate this zone involves worrying. When they don't come together, which is inevitable, we suffer. Our mind chews on hope and fear because it's unable to relax. We're afraid of what will happen if we loosen our grip on ourselves. We work to draw in what will make us happy, fend off whatever causes pain, and pretty much ignore the rest. This is what most of us consider pleasure. We create a comfort zone based on the motivation "I just want to get by." I call this the "have a nice day" approach.

Reflect on this description. Does this apply to you? Do you spend your life constructing a zone inside of which you hope to have a nice day?

As a motivation for living our lives, "have a nice day" is very confining. It keeps us trapped in dissatisfaction, self-involvement, and fear. We feel defensive and claustrophobic. We are running on speed, need, and greed. And we are often moving so quickly that we don't even notice that we have a motivation. That sense of oppression is maintained by our bewildered, untrained mind. It's all-pervasive, deep, as if we're dreaming. This is suffering.

Undoing bewilderment

We all have the ability to come to a point where there is no confusion, where there is no bewilderment, where it's very clear what is going on. This is different from trying to figure everything out. .

In order to wake up to our enlightened qualities — unconditional love and compassion, uninhibited, total ease with ourselves, a clear and sharp mind — we first have to understand the nature of our bewilderment. Do we really know what's going on? Are we capable of knowing what's going on? Yes, ultimately we can. But we need to go on a journey of meditation to understand our mind. In order to understand the journey, we must be aware and observant of whatever is going on in our mind and our life.