“There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping
quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important.
Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the
first man replies, “l don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a
horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit
energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has
become a habit. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war
within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others.
We have to learn the art of stopping – stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our
forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. When an emotion rushes through us
like a storm, we have no peace. We turn on the TV and then we turn it off. We pick
up a book and then we put it down. How can we stop this state of agitation? How can
we stop our fear, despair, anger, and craving? We can stop by practising mindful
breathing, mindful walking, mindful smiling, and deep looking in order to understand.
When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always
understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.
But our habit energies are often stronger than our volition. We say and do things we
don’t want to and afterwards we regret it. We make ourselves and others suffer, and
we bring about a lot of damage. We may vow not to do it again, but we do it again.
Why? Because our habit energies (vashana) push us.
We need the energy of mindfulness to recognise and be present with our habit
energy in order to stop this course of destruction. With mindfulness, we have the
capacity to recognise the habit energy every time it manifests. “Hello, my habit
energy, I know you are there!” If we just smile to it, it will lose much of its strength.
Mindfulness is the energy that allows us to recognise our habit energy and prevent it
from dominating us.”