The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Monday Mindful Morsel: Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants

by Lydia Anderson
May 19, 2014
Mon, 05/19/2014 - 11:50 -- landerson

This week's morsel comes from Arnie Kozak's Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants. This book presents metaphors for mindfulness that Dr. Kozak has cultivated over twenty-five years of meditating, practicing yoga, and working as a clinical psychologist. Metaphors are indispensable to understanding mindfulness, and to help deeply internalize it and make it a part of everyday life. These mentally catchy images can motivate us to practice, show us how and where to bring mindfulness to life in our personal experience, and help us employ powerful methods for transformation. In the selection below, Kozak teaches a new way to think of quieting the mind.


Many people use their remote controls to mute commercials on TV. I have a friend who watches sports programs by muting them and listening to classical music in the background, allowing a different choreography to a football or basketball game to emerge.

What might it mean to find our own “inner mute button”—a mute button for the mind? If the mind is like a television, you can watch the television without the sound by seeing the images that pass by on the screen without getting involved in their storyline and content. You can distance yourself from the drama by allowing things to be as they are, silently and without color commentary.

The mind produces three basic types of subjective content: images or pictures, self-talk, and feelings that are bodily sensations with an emotional flavor. These can arise individually or in the various combinations of image-talk, image-feel, talk-feel, and image-talkfeel. There are also remembered or imagined sounds, such as music, which I consider another form of image space. The constant objective spaces for attention include sight, sound, and bodily sensations (and less frequently smell and taste).

When a traumatic or difficult experience has occurred and the event is relived in all its pain and horror, there is intensity (as mediated by the closeness to the images of the experience), content (the storyline of the event), reactivity in thoughts (“Oh my god, why is this still happening to me?”), and reactivity in emotions and physiology (the embodied sensations that accompany the memories, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and emotional feelings). If you can watch the event as a quiet image on the mind’s screen, you can create healing distance from the event.

Try this strategy whenever something distressing arises: Whatever happens, such as panic, fear, or anxiety, there will be physical feelings or sensations in the body. Try to move attention to the physical sensations that accompany emotions and difficult situations. This attention will interrupt the unhelpful color commentary in the mental TV and it will help you to become more familiar and intimate with your body. This intervention shifts attention from the subjective mind spaces to the objective spaces, and by doing so reduces suffering.

This is pressing the inner mute button. Repeat as necessary. And keep practicing!

To learn more about Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, click here.


How to cite this document:
© Arnie Kozak, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants (Wisdom Publications, 2009)

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Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants by Arnie Kozak is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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