Ajahn Sumedho, a highly accomplished teacher, reports being a student at the monastery of Ajahn Chah in Thailand and contracting malaria, which was very unpleasant. He had heard stories of monks for whom the malaria had infected their brains, sending them off to the asylum for the rest of their lives.
Ajahn Chah came to visit him and asked how he was. He reported that he was miserable with malaria and his fear that it might infect his brain. Ajahn Chah told him that the malaria was his practice.
Joseph Goldstein reports a conversation with his teacher in which he reported having a splitting headache. His teacher replied, “I hope you are enjoying it.”
What they were trying to get across is that Buddhist practice works with whatever comes up, good, bad, or indifferent.
Again, when you meditate, you will likely find thoughts arising that are very unpleasant, some of them possibly even horrifying. The key teaching is not to run away from or try to avoid any thought, no matter how disturbing. Just recognize that it is only a thought. You do not have to act on it, or tell anyone else about it.
Thoughts are wispy and ephemeral, as long as you note them and let them dissipate on their own. They only have their effects if you hold onto them and turn them into a huge story.
The instruction is always the same: note your thoughts, let them pass, and return your attention to the breath. Over and over and over and over. And over. It really is a practice. You get better the more you do it.
Eventually, you find bliss and equanimity. So keep meditating on whatever arises as you practice.
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