During the course of teaching Reiki, or even in conversations with people in general, I notice one thing that is heartening. The awareness around meditation practices, mindfulness and the benefits of such practices is definitely growing.
At the same time, as I listen to the words most of us use to describe our experiences and challenges in meditation practice, or even the purpose of meditation itself, I find that, often, even with the idea of meditation, we are prisoners of our beliefs.
Take for instance, this comment, which I hear about fairly often. “We need to learn to quiet the mind”. Or this one: “You need to learn to meditate and quiet your mind”. Or this one: “Despite meditation often, I can’t seem to quiet my mind”.
Much has been written about how our mind is like a monkey, jumping from one thought to another. Or, how, in the course of a day, we can be bombarded by 40,000 thoughts or more.
And undoubtedly, anyone who has attempted meditation, knows that the simple direction of “following the breath” isn’t easy, because, in no time at all, the mind has wandered and got ensnared in some chain of thoughts. And surely, at some time or another, we all have experienced the serious frustration with this. I’d daresay that even those of us, who have been practicing meditation for years can still find ourselves in this very situation.
This leads to a question for me: Can one really quiet the mind?
Quieting the mind, as a goal, seems like wrestling with air, like catching flowing water with my bare hands. Seems impossible, to me.
Also, to me, this approach of trying to quiet the mind, has signs of resistance written all over it. i.e. The mind, as it is now (noisy), isn’t what it should be (silent). And that I have to push against it, do something to change it. Sadly, as it has been written by many before, whatever we resist persists. Is it any wonder then, that even with practice, the mind is still noisy, and cluttered with thoughts?
Have we been going about this the wrong way? With the wrongful belief that we have to conquer our mind, and browbeat it into submission and quietness?
I wonder if there’s another way to look at this, that doesn’t require my success in meditation, to emerge after a battle with my mind, where I work hard and wrestle it into submission, and emerge with a quiet mind!!!
To me, it starts with recognizing one quality of our mind called “attention”. We use this word quite commonly, like: “Pay attention to this”. Attention is like focusing on, or rather tuning into something. So often, our attention is in the thought processes in the mind, or what I see as the “I” process. And our experience of life follows what we’ve paid attention to. More of the “I” process.
In practice, I’ve noticed that when I move my mind’s attention, consciously into my heart center, I find the stillness that I’ve been seeking to already be there. i.e. Even as the noisy mind, the clamor of the “I” process is active, also active at the same time is the stillness in the heart center. And when I’ve moved my mind’s attention to the heart center, my experience of life in those moments, is that of stillness and peace and expansion and more. If I let the mind’s attention slip away from the heart center, it snaps back, almost by default, to the “I” process and its noise. And the consequent experience of life in those moments, is that of fear, anger, pride and myriad such instruments of suffering that exist as an artifact of the “I” process.
Training myself to move my mind’s attention to the heart center and let it rest in the stillness that is already there, to me, feels a lot more easy to do. I’m not wrestling with wispy, intangible thoughts. I’m not fighting with illusory artifacts of the “I” process. I’m merely training to move my mind’s attention to that which I’m seeking anyway, the stillness, which is already present in my heart center.
For a moment, I’m not saying that this is easy. But it is simple. It may be a more effective approach. It is easier to do that fighting to quiet my mind. With this approach, I’m not resisting the nature of my mind in my human form, which is, by default, noisy. I’m choosing instead, to train my mind to move its attention to the heart center, and to the stillness that is there.
No resistance of my mind, inherently means that I’m not feeding it any more with my futile attempts to wrestle it into submission and silence. What I put my attention on, expands. And the reason for this is that energy follows thought, and the arc of that flow of energy is through the focal point of attention. Practicing to transfer my attention from the “I” process that is the mind, to the stillness in the heart center, eliminates the battle of “Quieting the Mind” altogether.
It is like tuning into the heart center and loving the sacred music of stillness that is always on there, rather than tuning into the “I” process and hating the mind’s noise!
If this is a reasonable perspective to explore for yourself, how can you train yourself to consciously apply your attention in the manner I describe above?
Start with Usui san’s foundational meditation practice, Joshin Kokyu Ho, which literally means “Focusing the mind on one thing with breath”. This practice creates the circumstances in our mind-body, where we can readily discern and apply the quality of “attention” of the mind, from the “I” process in which it is often stuck, to the heart center. It is a direct path to the experience of stillness since that is already here too.
Of course, as I tell my students, don’t believe a word of what I say. This is just one practitioner’s opinion. You have to see for yourself whether the shift in orientation from “Quieten the mind” to “Tune into the stillness in your heart” is a useful one for you or not.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below.