This is the story of the magician Harry Houdini who traveled through Europe to small towns challenging local jailers to bind him in a straight jacket and lock him in a cell to see if he could escape. Over and over again, he would amaze and astonish his audiences with how he could break out of his straight jacket and cell.
But one day, he went to a small Irish village and ran into trouble because in front of a whole flock of people, be broke free of the straight jacket, but no matter what he did, he could not open the lock. Finally disappointed, the towns people left. Houdini asked the jailer about the lock trying to understand why he couldn’t open it. The jailer told him, “it was just an ordinary lock, I figured you could open anything, so I didn’t bother locking it”.
In other words, Houdini had been locking himself in the whole time. His assumption had been that he was locked in.
And so it is with us. We move through our day with an assumption of a problem, that there is something wrong that we have to figure out. We narrow our focus; we tense up; we get busy; we get stressed.
The Buddha said that whatever a person frequently thinks or reflects on, that will become the inclination of his or her mind. Our bodies follow right along. If we’re thinking worried thoughts, our body is probably getting a steady stream of adrenaline and cortisol, keeping us physically agitated or restless. Consider: Are your thoughts arousing a sense of kindness? of interest? of possibility? Or are your thoughts arousing a sense of tightness? separation? or discontent? In science now they say neurons that fire together, wire together, so the more frequently we have certain kinds of thoughts, the more we’re going to have that inclination.
Meditation training, is completely radical because it gives us the potential of stepping out of this stressing trance. We can start noticing the thoughts and have some choice as to where we want to pay attention. The message is don’t believe your thoughts!
Otherwise, we’re just like Houdini fiddling with that lock and locking ourselves in our cell over and over again.