Defilements only repeat when they have fuel; repetitive thoughts are often fed by the anticipation of a reward. These thoughts can’t arise without supportive causes, and it is up to you to discover the source of their nutriment. Contemplate whatever pleasure, benefit, or reward you believe you gain by thinking your distracting thoughts.
Perhaps the assumed reward is as subtle as merely reinforcing an identity, where you belong, or what you believe. It might strengthen self-importance, or create a feeling of comfort by giving you a sense of control. Even a negative self-image can create a perverse sense of security. Sometimes, even destructive patterns can seem oddly reassuring in their familiarity—that is also the gratification. Get familiar with the patterns that tantalize you, lure you, and become aware of the benefit you gain by allowing yourself to be seduced by them.
From Beyond Distraction: Five Practical Ways to Focus the Mind by Shaila Catherine, © 2022 by Shaila Catherine. Reprinted by permission of Wisdom Publications.
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.