In my last blog I mentioned approaches to meditation. I talked about the difficulty of actually stilling the mind, restless beast that it is. My preference is, at least initially, to observe the mind’s activity in response to my effort of fixed attention. I think it is very important to keep in mind that if we import a technique from another culture, as many meditative pursuits are, we take care not to expect it to work automatically in a different cultural setting. Techniques and approaches need to be tempered to each unique situation.
This is all personal opinion and preference. I myself have not experienced glowing results from attempts to categorically still my mind. I have though penetrated further into the mind through observation, by watching its habits and flows.
The conundrum as I see it, is that we are as it were, trying to reprogram a formidable processor. You sit in meditation with the sole purpose of not thinking, of stemming and stopping the flow of thoughts. So, what generally happens next? An inexorable flow of thoughts, like a waterfall, cascade before thee. Ponder the fact that there is a place within us that generates thought processes, despite us, without our conscious volition. Did we have and then lose access to the off button? What does it mean that we seem pre-programmed for ceaseless thought? What are the ramifications for meditative practice? Much food for reflection there my friends…
Notwithstanding this stumbling block, I still find it extremely useful to sit, though with a slightly different intention. I initially get myself into a deep, slower breathing rhythm. The Zen tradition regards the breathing process as the very foundation of the cultivation of the mind. There is benefit to be gained even at this early stage of sitting. I might spend ten minutes in this prep zone, sinking down, quietening the body and mind. This is a great initial practice on the path to more elaborate awareness. The next blog will introduce the idea of watching the flow of thoughts; as if one were behind the wall of water that is a waterfall, inside the waterfall, but dry and detached and able to observe its flow.