The Immeasurable Is Not of This World

How Do Your Character Defects Hook You?

In this meditation, we look deeply at the roots of our defects of character, piercing the delusions that feed them.  Mindfulness teaches that delusions can be defeated and frustrated by awareness, seeing that all phenomena are inherently empty in nature.  In mindfulness training, we are encouraged to look at ourselves "objectively," to see "the many dregs of delusion stirring up muddy water: ignorance, craving, hatred and so on."


Following are questions for your reflection.  I suggest writing out your answers in a meditation practice journal and seeing how they change over time.


Which of your character defects is your favorite? 


Notice which delusion is most likely to hook you:

  • You get seduced into believing your feelings, perceptions and internal beliefs are the real you.

  • You are deluded into thinking you are “right,” act defensive, act arrogant or deny your shadow self.

  • Your emotions, especially negative feelings of anger, hurt or craving, overwhelm you. You act them out (exploding, taking them out on other people) or act them in (imploding, talking them out against yourself).

  • You are fooled into pursuing pleasure, believing it will help you block out pain, licking the honey off of the razor until it cuts.

  • You are taken in by an illusory sense of power that you can manage and control the suffering of change, loss and death.  If you only could get it right.


Once you have identified a delusion that is dear to you, write out the details of a time you were fooled by that delusion. 

If you are not yet aware of such an incident, then bring mindful attention to your reactions over the next days or weeks.  See what you observe. In either case, reflect on your experience of getting “hooked” in delusion by answering these questions:

  • What hooked you? Describe what happened to trigger your reaction, such as an external circumstance or internal thought pattern.

  • When you are hooked, what does it feel like in your body?

  • What thoughts go through your mind?

  • What feelings do your thoughts generate?

  • What defect of character fuel?

  • What are the consequences and effects of your reaction (to you, to others, to your relationships?)?


Meditate on the experience of your delusion.  


Does it remind you of something from your childhood or earlier life experience?  If so, describe that experience.


By contrast, think of a time when you were not hooked.  Or, if you are not yet aware of such an event, be mindful over the next days or weeks and see what you notice. 


Then reflect on your experience of not being hooked:

  • What does it feel like in your body?

  • What thoughts go through your mind?

  • What feelings do your thoughts generate?

  • How do you act? What do you say or do?

  • What about this experience is different from when you are hooked?


Reflect on the difference between times when you are hooked and times when you are not. 


How do the delusional ideas harm your spiritual life?  Which ideas about yourself, others, or life do you wish to release?  By contrast, what brings energy and serenity to your spiritual life?

Write a Personal Vow

Vows catalyze the process of personal transformation.  We aspire to awaken our better self, to water the seeds of our true nature so it may bloom.  We call upon the help from all living beings, sending tremors through the great web of inter-being.  And those tremors reverberate back to us.  Knowing this to be true is the miracle of awakening.  In that spirit, write a personal vow for one of the shortcomings you would like to have transformed.  Gently experiment with the four-line form of a gatha verse as explained in the preceding pages.

1.  Open

            In the first line, describe the shortcoming or habit-pattern you wish to release:


When I for example:

hear my inner critic . . .

go into shame . . .

want to eat . . .

put myself last . . .

get scared about money . . .

procrastinate . . .

2.  Acknowledge your reliance


In the second line, place your needs and concerns in the arms of the Universe, the care of God as you understand God:


I vow with the help of my Higher Power . . .

I vow with the help of all living beings . . .

(or you may wish to use alternate phrasing.)

Trusting in God, I ask . . .

Listening for guidance, I ask . . .

Entrusting myself to the way, I vow . . .


3.  Let go of the old


In the third line, describe the root delusion or belief that fuels your pattern – what you need to release in order to open to something new:


for example -


To let go of all doubt . . .

To let go of self-reliance and mental worry . . .

To let go of carrying responsibility that is not mine . . .


4.  Invite in the new


In the fourth and last line, describe what you want to cultivate in place of the shortcoming.

         For example:


And extend loving kindness to myself

And relish in being.

         And feel my feelings fully.

         And rest in the joy of my true nature

         And receive the support of the universe

         And accept that all beings are the owners of their own karma

         And open my heart, breathing in lasting comfort


Work with your gatha verse.  Memorize it.  Write it down and put it in a book you read daily or place it next to your meditation cushion or chair.  Turn your vow over in your mind during your morning meditation or quiet time.  Let it soak into your consciousness.  Hold your aspiration in your mind, especially the last line, all through the next year.  Over the next weeks or months, observe what happens.

Therese Jacobs-Stewart, Mindfulness & the 12 Steps

Full Awareness of Breathing