You are walking on the street, you notice a beautiful flower, you stop to smell it. You look at it attentively and you see its shape and texture, its color, and you begin to feel a sense of connection with this flower. Next thing you know, you are completely absorbed by it and you forget about yourself for a moment. You may ask yourself what happened there? You were in total presence with this flower and you forget about yourself. The veil of separation between you and the flower disappeared; there was only one. This my friend, is what meditation is like. Except, in meditation instead of being fascinated by a flower, we become fascinated with who we are in our essence and approach the practice with a sense of curiosity. We wish to know who we are and understand the fabric of our being and existence. So often I hear people comment that meditation is not for them because they can’t stop their mind or that their mind is too busy to quiet it. And that is why I will explain what is the role of the mind and why we cannot stop it. I will also speak about the importance of focusing our mind as well as what are the different ways for one to meditate.
At this moment in time, due to our advancement in technology and culture, we are constantly bombarded by outside stimulus and entertainment. Our mind is quick to jump from one stimulation to the other. The phone, the computer, the next gadget, etc. Multi-tasking is seen as something good when it can also be a total distraction. For example in life, if we wish to go far into a certain subject or practice, we cannot dig many holes and enjoy the superficial aspect of it only, we need to dig one hole and go deep. Only this way can we really enjoy the fruits of our labor, and in meditation, those fruits are the Self, union with God, love, creativity, healing, and peace.
How does this apply to meditation?
In meditation, we always begin by focusing the mind on something, to give it focus, we sharpen our awareness on an object. Say the breath or a particular place on the body. Then, the mind moves from digging many holes to be focused and stable. This is the practice of meditation. In everyday life, we can apply this simple technique of focusing our mind and awareness to bring us into the present moment. For example, as we are walking, working, doing every day’s chores at home, etc. Like this, as soon as we notice that we are in our mind, either projecting into the future or thinking about the past, we bring our awareness to our senses. We do a little check-in and ask ourselves; What do I hear? What do I taste, and what do I see? We bring our awareness to an object or to a sound and simply allow it to bring us in the present moment, and into the Now. A quote from Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual master he says “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have and make the Now the primary focus of your life”. Some wise words to live by.
Only with total love and acceptance of how the mind is, can we surrender and bring our efforts into concentration in meditation. Again and again, we come back to the moment, come back to the point of focus. Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind and eventually, moving beyond the mind, into the “no-mind” zone.
There is a beautiful image I like to use to help the students understand a little bit better about the mind. The mind is like the thorns of a rose. If you get a thorn hooked in your skin, you can use another thorn to take it out. The same thing happens with the mind. We use the mind, to let go of the mind, to go beyond the mind. We begin by focusing, and using whatever technique is suggested to us, and then quickly we go beyond the technique to rest in that place of pure being. We will notice there are moments where we feel a sense of spaciousness, and expansion, resting in our own presence. In that place, time flies. And in that place, our thoughts are simultaneously happening, yet we don’t seem to “mind” it. We are not affected. That is when we know we are in a state of meditation, equanimity and rest.
Understanding the mind a little more; Re-action vs Creation
An importing thing to note is that the sooner we stop judging ourselves and how our mind works, the happier we will be. We need to understand that it’s in the nature of the mind to jump from one thing to another. To think quickly, to think about the future and the past, to make stories, etc. Our mind is such a sophisticated and powerful tool. So powerful in fact that with our mind and thoughts we control our emotions! Have you ever remembered something beautiful in your life, or something sad, a moment, and the memory brought you to tears? Why is that? The memories of the past still live in us today and have a total influence on how we act today. The only way to be free from the results of our past and from being the product of the future is by cultivating a life focusing on creating our life from moment-to-moment. Not by re-activity but with creativity.
Reactivity is a task of the mind, to react a certain pattern or way of being because it has done it before. It may be useful or not, you may like it, or not. But it still happens! You may not like that you react a certain way, but you still do it! The only way to change the pattern and this reaction are by creating a new one in the present moment. With our presence and awareness, we know and feel a pattern of reaction that is happening in our mind and body. Therefore, by being aware of ourselves, we can consciously shift and change a reaction pattern that is in our mind and CHOOSING and CREATING a new one! It is that simple, and that powerful.
Last piece of advice
The mind is a muscle we train. The more we meditate, the easier it becomes to “enter” into a state of meditation. The connection is made easier because we learned how to do it. The best advice I can give you is this. If you want to learn something in life, you have to go and immerse yourself in it. Go to a retreat, spend 10 days in silence, join a practice group, participate in a workshop, etc. That is the best way to learn and really let the teachings and practice sink in.
With perseverance and practice, you will get it and you will love it. Meditation is a beautiful practice to still our mind and comes to a place of inner peace and clarity. It is from that place that we can connect to something deeper and greater than us and our personality. It is a beautiful practice for self-inquiry and self-discovery and I hope you feel inspired to practice it too.
In summary, the mind is a wonderful tool to help us think, analyze, plan. And, it is a tool to “turn off” when needed. We don’t go to bed with our gardening gloves on, right? In meditation, it is about stripping the layers of our mind and going deeper into our Selves and being, it is finding out Who we really are! Beyond the mind, beyond the thoughts and personality. So let’s come to a place of appreciation for what the mind is and then come into an even deeper appreciation of ourselves and our own existence.