As you have learned (or will learn if this is your first time meditating), our practice requires us to be mindful of three things.
First is mindfulness of body—we hold our posture in a certain way.
Second is mindfulness of breath—we place attention on breath and, when it strays, bring it back.
Third is mindfulness of mind. But what does this mean?
Are we trying to monitor each thought and when we see one, turn away from it?
Or are we supposed to empty our minds of thought in order to meditate? (Those of you who know me know what I’m going to say—absolutely not.)
Are we supposed to quiet our minds? (Not necessary, this happens on its own when we apply the technique. No effort required.)
Are we supposed to look carefully for insight into the nature of reality—or should we just relax and let things flow and twist and turn and trust that eventually our minds will sort themselves out?
Most of us tend to prefer either super close examination and keeping a very tight leash on our minds OR relinquishing control and letting things sort of run amok. The first danger is mistaking vigilance for awareness. The second danger is in becoming lost in the display of thought, feeling, and sensation.
If we want our meditation practice to lead us to peace and enlightenment and happiness, what then is the middle ground?
There is a famous story about a sitar player who requested to meet with the Buddha to discuss his meditation practice. He asked him, “Should I maintain tight controls on my mind during meditation or should I let it flow?” The Buddha asked, “How do you tune your instrument?” The sitar play said, “If I tune the strings too tightly, they break. If they are too loose, no sound comes out.” “Just so,” replied the Buddha, “you should hold your mind in meditation.” Not too tight—let your thoughts be as they are, allow your mind to be at rest within its activity, feel its flow and energy—and not too loose—remember to apply the technique with a light touch to maintain an environment of order and clarity.
So as you go about your life today, as you look at your to-do list, listen to your child’s voice, sit down with your boss to discuss a project, or even simply leaf through a magazine, tune in every now and then to ask yourself: Where is my mind right now? Too tight (anxious, demanding, narrow)? Too loose (spacy, unfocused, dull)? Or just right, as Goldilocks might say…meaning awake, joyous, and “on the dot,” as Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa might say.
Of course, meditation practice is the ultimate training in how to hold your mind inna Goldilocks stylee, just right.
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