We are pattern-seeking primates. We have effectively used our awareness of patterns––such as seasons, weather, and behavior–– to survive as a species for 100,000 years. Along the way, we have also needed individuals who are willing to break out of old patterns and innovate, to see new or unusual patterns. That is how we came up with things like fire and trade and the internet. Most of us travel through our everyday lives unaware of the patterns around us.
I’ve been thinking about patterns in my own life. I have been exposed to many traumatic betrayals over my lifetime. Is that a pattern? Or is suffering just a side effect of being a spirit in human form? Is the real pattern my reaction to these events? I choose how to feel or behave as a response. I choose whether to be depressed or angry, to avoid or confront, to hate or forgive––based on my own habits.
Ben Connelly writes about Cleaning Out the Storehouse in the Fall 2016 issue of Tricycle magazine. He describes the buddhist concept of “storehouse consciousness”. Everything we do is either the fruit of a seed planted in the past or a seed we are planting for the future. In short, when we continue to repeat our behavior patterns, we are just planting the same seeds over and over. This means that we will continue to reap the same fruit over and over in the future. If, instead, I can interrupt my reaction and choose the seed I wish to plant for the future, I will reap a different fruit when the seed matures.
Connelly offers this simple practice to cultivate awareness (p. 43):
“Stop and take three mindful breaths and notice how you feel in your heart and your body. Then list ten things from the past that planted the seeds in the storehouse and that were involved in creating your perception of the moment. Since everything is connected, anything that ever happened counts, but it’s good to focus on emotional states. Here’s an example: after lunch I stop and take three mindful breaths. Then I use my fingers to count to ten and say or think, “My perception in this moment depends on: loving my mom, the rainy road last night, the terror of war, white privilege, meditating this morning, my grumpy grandpa, watching baby birds, never feeling good enough when I was young, being afraid of the dark, worrying about work.” Then I move on. There’s no need to analyze; just let the seeds of remembering how much the past forms the present sink into the unconscious, the storehouse. Reminders that infinite seeds form our moments help us to shed the habit of believing everything we think; they help us be patient with the slow road to liberation; and they help us focus on the ground of our deepest empowerment: the ability to transform our consciousness.”