Meditation

If we continue to observe our mind over some time, we notice that it’s not always distracted and busy. For all of us, there are times when our minds become concentrated, sharp and clear. Perhaps we are doing a cross-word puzzle, playing a video game, reading a mystery story, cleaning the house or cooking. For some, it’s the simple tasks that engage us in ways that allow our mind to be composed and focused; for others, it’s complex problem solving.

Many times, however, the needs of others are what bring us to a state of sharp concentration. Whether it’s because we feel very secure with those we’re with or because we are functioning under conditions of extreme crisis, we find that in this state of intense concentration helpful insights arise on their own, as a function of our one-pointedness. In these experiences we meet a resource of remarkable potential. While we may be frustrated in not having access to it all the time, these experiences lead us to inquire whether there might be something we could do more regularly and formally to quiet the mind, strengthen its concentration, make available the deeper insights that often result, and bring them into closer attunement with the empathy and compassion of our heart. How immeasurably this might enhance our ability to help others.

Traditionally, one such way to begin this investigation is through meditation, systematically observing the mind itself and becoming more familiar with the ways in which we are denied the experience of full concentration. When we do this, with even a simple exercise like focusing our attention on our breath or on a candle flame, we begin to see that there is a continuous stream of thoughts going on all the time. Meditation may be frustrating if we think we can stop this process right away. We can’t. But by penetrating and observing it, we can free ourselves from being carried away by our thoughts.

Our thoughts are always happening. Much like leaves floating down a stream or clouds crossing the sky, they just keep coming. They arise in the form of sensations, feelings, memories, anticipations, and speculations. And they are all constantly calling for attention: Think of me.” “Notice me.” “Attend to me.” As each thought passes, either we attend to it or we don’t. While we can’t stop the thoughts themselves, we can stop our awareness from being snared by each one. If you are standing by a river and a leaf floats by, you have your choice of following the leaf with your eye or keeping your attention fixed in front of you. The leaf floats out of your line of vision. Another leaf enters… and floats by.

But as we stand on the bank of the river and the leaves float by, there is no confusion as to whether or not we are the leaves. Similarly, it turns out that there is a place in our minds from which we can watch our own mental images go by. We aren’t our thoughts any more than we are the leaves.

If we imagine that our mind is like the blue sky, and that across it pass thoughts as clouds, we can get a feel for that part of it which is other than our thoughts. The sky is always present; it contains the clouds and yet is not contained by them. So with our awareness. It is present and encompasses all our thoughts, feelings, and sensations; yet it is not the same as them. To recognize and acknowledge this awareness, with its spacious, peaceful quality, is to find a very useful resource within. We see that we need not identify with each thought just because it happens to occur. We can remain quiet and choose which thought we wish to attend to. And we can remain aware behind all these thoughts, in a state that offers an entirely new level of openness and insight.

Wes Pinkston,

Encinitas Life/Business Coach ❤️

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