Internal Formations

There is a term in Buddhist psychology that can be translated as “internal formations,” “fetters,” or “knots.”  When we have a sensory input, depending on how we receive it, a knot may be tied in us.  When someone speaks unkindly to us, if we understand the reason and do not take his or her words to heart, we will not feel irritated at all, and no knot will be tied.  But if we do not understand why we are spoken to that way and we become irritated, a knot will be tied in us.  The absence of clear understanding is the basis for every knot.

If we practice full awareness, we will be able to recognize internal formations as soon as they are formed, and we will find ways to transform them… Internal formations need our full attention as soon as they manifest, while they are still weak, so that the work of transformation is easy.

If we do not untie our knots when they form, they will grow tighter and stronger.  Our conscious, reasoning mind knows that negative feelings such as anger, fear, and regret are not wholly acceptable to ourselves or society, so it finds ways to repress them, to push them into remote areas of our consciousness in order to forget them.  Because we want to avoid suffering, we create defense mechanisms that deny the existence of these negative feelings and give us the impression we have peace within ourselves.  But our internal formations are always looking for ways to manifest as destructive images, feelings, thoughts, words, or behavior…

If we know how to live every moment in an awakened way, we will be aware of what is going on in our feelings and perceptions in the present moment, and we will not let knots form or become tighter in our consciousness.  And if we know how to observe our feelings, we can find the roots of long-standing internal formations and transform them, even those that have become quite strong.

Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace Is Every Step

STM Cycle of Prayer

We pray today for the Christian Scriptures: Narratives class taught by Leticia Guardiola-Sáenz; Sharon Callahan, faculty; Michael Anderson and Scott Anderson, students.

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