Contrary to what most would think, that the reason I went away for 3 days to meditate and observe Noble Silence* at a Buddhist monastery was to take care of my spirit, my main objective was to take care of business. By learning from those who know best about meditation, my goal was to improve my practice and sharpen my mind. In the process I did learn about loving kindness and the impermanence of things. But those were only fringe benefits and pale in comparison to what I learned about how to control my mind by keeping it still.
My main hope in sharing this with you is for you to realize that, like me, you too can benefit from sitting down and doing nothing for 30 minutes a day – talk about a great return on an investment!
The reality is that as much fun as it looks like a dog is having when it’s playing fetch with its owner, something tells me that just like me, you would much rather be the one throwing the stick. Not the one panting from chasing after it.
The question is, are your thoughts sending you to go fetch? In other words, are you mindlessly reacting to situations around you, chasing after your anger, your worries and your doubts? Or are you in control of your mind, taking time to think and respond to the world around you?
Aside from your pride being threatened if you are in fact the one running breathlessly after your thoughts, the more important thing that is at stake here is your ability to think clearly. When your mind is too busy going on an emotional errand, you’re not able to experience your mind’s full capacity to think. It’s a well-known fact that your mind performs at its peak when it’s calm and clear like the surface of a pond on which you can see your own reflection. A still mind is a clear mind. A clear mind is a thinking mind.
The great news for you and me is that we can learn to make our mind stay still – and not go fetch – in spite of what happens around us. The simplest way that I know how is by meditating. By sitting down to focus on your in and out breath, you’re learning to take control over your mind by keeping it still. The whole point is to keep coming back to your breath as it enters and leaves your nose, over and over again, as you watch your thoughts go past. The more you do this, the easier it becomes for your mind to stay in one place.
I know that sitting down and doing nothing does not sound like much of a party. But you tell me, what would you rather do; pant as a result of fetching after your thoughts all day long and continue to think with an impaired brain, or spend 30 minutes of your day to make your mind sharp as a diamond?
Take a deep breath (with a little smile).
*Noble Silence: silence of the body, speech and mind. Speaking is allowed only in case of an emergency or to ask staff about your practice.
The Buddhist monastery that received me with loving kindness: www.sunnataram.org