What are the “Worldly Winds” and How to Overcome Them
Wind is the element representative of the quality of movement: to cover, to expand and to fill. No wonder the wind element has been correlated with the nervous system in Ayurveda and Yoga, and with the idea of energy, that which prompts us to act. Where the winds of the body move, or where the nervous impulses of the body moves, the mind will also move. You can understand it by a very simple experiment: close your eyes and perceive the sensations on the tip of your big toes. If you can’t sense anything, move them a little, and it will be clear the vast realm of experience that can be found in every part of our body.
But the winds of our mind can also move in ways that are detached from physical experience, such as daydreaming, or ‘getting lost’ in memory. The nervous energy is still being used, but now to create an internal picture of something which can’t be seen outside.
The Buddha has described 8 major ‘winds of the mind’: pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, gain and loss. They are correlated with external happenings, but ultimately we name them based on our self perception, through the movement of our mental understanding and memory.
In the Buddha’s teachings, these are ‘8 worldly dhammas’: 8 realities of our world. But they are in contrast with what could be called the ‘ultimate reality’. What is this ultimate Dhamma? The wisdom that arises from seeing all phenomena of this life as impermanent, prone to cause dissatisfaction, and not belonging to oneself. Shall we analyze it?
It is clear that some actions in this world will cause praise, fame, pain, etc. But ultimately they are all transitory happenings in the continuum of life. We all know what is like to feel pleasure or pain, but do we know precisely how, when and why they will arise? We also can`t guarantee when they are going to fade. Therefore, all mental movements belong to nature, and are not inherently ours. We can only assert possession of something that is ours if the object is there when we want it to be. But in the end we are all living in a house, our bodies, that was not chosen or furnished by us, built with the materials which were already present in nature (the bodies of our parents, plus food and water), and later we cannot guarantee that our beloved belongings will be present (such as constant happiness and pleasure).
This would be the ultimate reality. But, unfortunately, we live in our bodies (houses) as if it could be always remodeled by a short visit to an Ikea or some sort of megastore. Don’t like your chair? Buy another one online. Want a change in the wallpaper? Go and choose among hundreds. Want a new set of cups? A quick visit at the store and it’s all sorted.
Unlike home designs, we can’t quickly fix the world winds. And they can act like tornados, creating so much movement that they can uproot us. Pleasure and pain, praise and blame, fame and disrepute, gain and loss; they come fast and expand, just like wind.
Sometimes our world might accelerate things, which is basically a change in the wind element. In Ayurveda, to regulate the wind qualities we need warmth and calmness, regularity and routine, nourishment and softness.
And according to the Buddha, the only way to see the ultimate reality is by going deep into oneself reality. How these worldly winds are always playing in our mind, uncontrolled and unreliable. How we forget that the body is also ultimately transitory, prone to cause pains one day or another, and has never been fully in our possession.
Even prior to the Buddha, the philosophers of India had already tried to solve the problems of these distressing mental winds. In the Samkhya philosophy, they classify 8 states that a human can be in: virtue, knowledge, non attachment, power, non virtue, attachment, ignorance, and weakness. The first 4 are said to be aids to a better life, but the highest one is considered knowledge. Knowledge of what? That in the end, everything is transitory, from the most beautiful to the most painful, without ownership. Some have made the mistake of seeing these teachings as negative. But it would be more accurate to see them in the light of freedom.
The recognition of these points can help us navigate this world even when the storm is rough. If the captain of the boat is firm, convict, and calm, the chances of a safe arrival are larger.
We hope you are all still safe and healthy. Let’s support each other with virtues and qualities, detachment from selfishness, empowerment of what is truly important, and knowledge. These winds are bound to pass.