Everyone who attempts the meditative practice will face what could be perceived as one of the greatest obstacles: the constant, compulsive and unstoppable flow of thoughts. Indeed, mind seeks every possible refuge. This is stated in the ancient Buddhist texts. This statement means to say that mind is in constant search for something to be identified with. In the practice of meditation, mind cannot find “refuge”; indeed, it must be left without “refuge”. But this is not a simple task because, differently from what many would state, mind can’t be stopped with effort: trying not to think is an effort, a useless effort, because it doesn’t give any results. We have to find a different approach in order to achieve that silence so often described in ancient sacred texts.
As mentioned in other posts on this blog, we must pay attention to the correct posture and the correct breath. But, what to do with the mind? Let the thoughts flow as and where they wish while focusing our attention on the above mentioned “objects”: posture and breath.
Once my mentor said: “If you wish to stop a dog from barking, you have to stop feeding it and the dog will die”. Beyond all the associative images and thoughts that could arise from this horrible and cruel statement (my mentor is not anti-animal and he loves animals, even “human animals”), there’s something enlightening in it: mind seeks to jump on new impressions to be indentified in. So, let it jump, because the more we try to deny this jumping, the more it will become agitated. It’s the same thing as trying to stop the dog’s bark by closing our hands over its muzzle: he’ll fight and bark even more.
In order to stop the flow of thoughts, we must use an indirect approach: we have to ignore this same flow through focusing our attention on other things: body and breath. We stop feeding thoughts with our attention.
Indeed, everything that exists needs energy in order to exist, and this is also of value for the associative/mechanical thoughts, so, giving any kind of attention means to give them energy. The more we worry about stopping them, the more we’ll feed them.
Once our attention on the body position and breath become constant and stable, most of the energy (food) involved in such attention, is subtracted from the associative mental processes. Once the associative mind receives less attention, it becomes calm and still.
So, to summarize, during the meditational practice we haven’t to do anything special, and least of all, giving to the intellect reasons to become identified with something. Basically, all we have to do is to maintain our attention on the above mentioned objects. Simple, isn’t it?
But, then, if it’s so simple, why isn’t it so easy?
It’s easily said: the difficulty of a practitioner doesn’t lie in the practice (that is simple), but in the idea the practitioner has about the practice. If we give ourselves goals or opinions, if we seek something special to happen, the practice becomes difficult, complicated and useless. We don’t achieve anything.
Meditation itself is simple and direct; but the fact is that we tend to complicate things.
Indeed, because of it’s simplicity, we have the tendency to do nothing, to not perform anything. We always have the expectation to experience something particular, some special feelings, special state of consciousness, asking God what kind of enlightening experience or maybe even meet God. Namely, something that we could label as a meditative experience.
What is real concerning meditation, is that it brings a slow but deep process of transformation of our mind, emotions and body. Through time and practice, this process will open the doors to peaceful experiences and a clearer vision of things – something REALLY “enlightening”.
Probably, now we could say that following the breath and paying attention to body posture is “meditation”, but it is not so. It’s important to say and remember that the practice of meditation is not meditation itself. Body and breath are only means during the “path”, and they have to be used without expectations, without considering, without any attempt to put something more into the practice.
We must remember that the associative mind always produces confusion and doubts, even when this is not needed. We have to understand that this never- ending mechanical attitude will never bring us peace and, what’s worse, will never bring us anywhere.
Before ending this post, we would like to point out one thing: we don’t state that the mind is useless; indeed, it’s a fundamental tool for our everyday life such as for our inner development. But it’s a perfect tool when it’s clear and able to be used. Even the associative thoughts are useful. The only difference is that we have to become aware in practice, not only theoretically, about the difference between associative thoughts and other kind of thoughts. Briefly, we have to become able to observe and administer our intellectual structure or center. Don’t believe in those who state that mind is a sort of scum, an obstacle that has to be eradicated, destroyed: it would be the same as being lobotomized. We must acquire control and power over our mind to make it a perfect tool for our development, and the practice of meditation is a perfect mean to achieve this aim… if it’s performed in a right, natural, correct way.
But true meditation is useful not only for this: it’s the most direct and focused way to realize a huge calm, strong presence; a skill that, through time, will be expressed in every situation in our life.