by: Loden Nyima, Resident Teacher at SMC
First of all, I actually love Netlflix, so please don’t sue me or cancel my subscription if anyone from there reads this—my problem isn’t with you!
What this article is about is what I call the “inner Netflix”—the repetitive stories, dramas, narratives, that play out in our minds over and over again. Do you know what I mean? Like the situation in our lives we think about constantly, whether at the workplace, or in our relationships, or other situations. It’s the thing we keep mulling over… ”if only I would have, if only they would have, one day it will be this way, next time I see them I’ll say this” etc, etc. Or, the list of things we have to do later, or the big regrets we have, or the endless self-criticism, or the various fantasies, or the hopes and fears or anxieties about the future. The list goes on and on.
The inner Netflix has it all. We’ve got the drama, the workplace sitcom, the relationship stuff, the family show, maybe some emo, the revenge fantasies, the action and adventure. Let’s hope there’s no crime and not too much apocalyptic sci-fi beyond the news. Oh, and they’re mostly reruns. In Buddhism we call this “habitual pattern.” And sorry Netflix, but yeah, that applies to you too.
The issue is, we actually believe it.
Just like on Netflix, the more we get into our shows, the more we feel pleasure and pain, joy and suffering, depending what’s going on. Meanwhile, the actors are off doing their thing, they’ve never been in our apartment or house. It’s just been us and our laptop the whole time.
Our minds are like this too.
Our “inner Netflix,” the repetitive stories we play out in our minds, have only ever been as solid or real as we’ve made them by believing them, by replaying them, by giving them our energy. They only have power because we keep subscribing.
Really, our minds are free, open, connected, like a nice big screen that can display whatever it wants but isn’t stuck in any one show. And really, there is no screen either…it’s just space, wisdom, and love…and it’s free. It’s more like the sky, sun, earth, water, and wind all our gadgets and shows are made of. No purchase necessary—it’s what we are.
In meditation, we learn to notice when we’re getting stuck in the inner Netflix, let go, and allow it to dissolve. We do this by remaining present with our breathing, nice and easy, natural, and free. When we find ourselves distracted or caught up in our stories, we can just gently return to our breath. In fact, we’re already “back” since the awareness that noticed we were caught up in our inner Netflix was never itself distracted! So we can just relax, trust ourselves, breathe, and let go.
In meditation we’re shifting our subscription to our breathing, and ultimately, to our nature—our openness, wisdom, compassion, and freedom. And we can unsubscribe from the rest. It’s caused us enough trouble already, and besides, we’ve seen all the episodes before. Many, many, many times.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to Breaking Ba—uh, oh, I mean meditation. Yeah, meditation first.
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About the Author: Loden Nyima
Gelong Loden Nyima is a fully ordained Buddhist monk. He lived at Gampo Abbey from 2009 – 2017 where he practiced intensively, completed Shedra studies, and served in various roles including as a Shastri. He now lives at Shambhala Mountain Center where he serves as Resident Teacher and a founding faculty member for the Summer Seminar and other programs. He spends a portion of each year in retreat, frequently travels to continue his own dharma education, and can often be seen jogging around the land at SMC.