Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, August 22, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
Our [untrained] mind is either hyper excited or lax. Our mind can be like a team of wild horses harnessed to a wagon. Unfortunately, we are the wagon. More often than not, the untrained horses are either aimlessly chasing an excess of desires or tirelessly avoiding discomforts. Or conversely, being content standing at the watering hole or lazily swatting flies with their tail, the horses may refuse to move at all. Either way, as the wagon, we are helpless – our mind is on autopilot.
From a young age, our subconscious mind has developed a very close relationship with our body. When we were a baby, we cried when we had a messy diaper. This is normal. We did not have to understand it or think about it, it was just uncomfortable, and we needed a clean diaper. Our body communicates to our subconscious mind what to seek (comfort) and what to avoid (discomfort). We tend to think this is a conscious decision. If we sit in an uncomfortable chair, we will eventually move to a cozier one or we will become unhappy. If we have an uncomfortable bed, assuming we have the resources, we may find ourselves spending thousands of dollars on a luxurious bed. It may even be adjustable. We soon find that we do not want to get out of bed. It is so cozy and comfortable, and the world is like a messy diaper.
When we have little conscious contact with our body, our cravings and aversions run the show. At some point in our luxurious life, we became conditioned to believe that we do not have to sit in an uncomfortable chair. And when we do have to, we fidget and are unhappy. Because we are so used to being comfortable, we do not allow ourselves to feel discomfort. This is a tremendous source of suffering because we seem to have forgotten that life has its ups and downs. Our mind has trained us to change any uncomfortable situation, not later, right meow! And when we find comfort, we do what we can to avoid discomfort, “this is my chair, go find your own!” We become attached. And when we do lose it, we are again unhappy.
Just for the sake of argument, wanting to find comfort and avoid discomfort is completely normal. But.
Unless we want to be dragged around by our mind which tells us what to worry about and stress over, what to attain or avoid, we must tame and train our unruly mind. A sustained practice of Shamatha (mindfulness of breath) meditation helps us to grab hold of the reins and take control of our mind. During this specific type of meditation, each time we notice that our attention has drifted away from the sensations of our breath, that is a mindful moment. When we have these mindful moments, we are training our mind to tend to what we choose to tend to. With time, we overcome our mind’s unruly habitual nature and we cultivate the ability to carry out healthy and wise choices that are in alignment with what is important to us.
If we want to grow intellectually, we cannot just stroll through a college campus or a library. We need to read a book or go to a class. If we want to be physically fit, we cannot just hang out in the gym and read magazines about being healthy. We must exercise. If we want a delicious meal, we can’t just read a cookbook. If we want conscious control of the decisions we make, if we want to be present in our life, we need more than the intellectual understanding of living mindfully in the present moment. Knowledge does little if we do not have the ability. We must actively tame and train our mind. Mindfulness of Breath meditation was designed for that purpose.
With present moment awareness, we cultivate the ability to sense when our mind wants us to escape a discomfort or to chase a desire. Over time, we learn to sit in our discomfort with the realization that it will change on its own. Eventually, we are going to have to get out of the uncomfortable chair. Simply understanding that life is imbued with both difficult and pleasurable experiences, our suffering decreases. When we learn to sit in our discomfort, our suffering also decreases.
For years we have been living with a conditioned mind. Becoming aware of this truth can be overwhelming and disconcerting. We did not do this to ourselves intentionally. It will take time, diligence, and compassionate patience to overcome this conditioning and habituation. But with practice, we can take control of our mind. So be gentle with yourself, and others, knowing that we are all doing the best we can.
I love you and there is not anything that you can do about it.
Headed out for a 4-day solo backpacking trip,
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