Strengthening, calming, and stabilizing the mind is the essential first step in accomplishing nearly any goal. Growing up American with a Tibetan twist, Sakyong Mipham talks to Westerners as no one can: in idiomatic English with stories and wisdom from American culture and the great Buddhist teachers. Turning the Mind Into an Ally makes it possible for anyone to achieve peace and clarity in their lives.
Many of us are slaves to our minds. Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, and our mind wanders off. We try to keep stress at bay, but anxiety keeps us awake at night. We try to be good to the people we love, but then we forget and put ourselves first. And we want to change our life, we dive into spiritual practice and expect to see quick results, only to lose focus after the honeymoon has worn off. We return to our state of bewilderment. We’re left feeling helpless and discouraged.
It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea, but why don’t we think about training our mind?
Even though the bewildered mind is untrained, it is already meditating, whether we know it or not. Meditation is the natural process of becoming familiar with an object by repeatedly placing our mind on an object or another.
In peaceful abiding, we ground our mind in the present moment. We place our mind on the breath and practice keeping it there. We notice when thoughts and emotions distracts us, and train in continually returning our mind to the breath. This is how we shift our allegiance from the bewildered mind that causes its own suffering to the mind that is stable, clear, and strong.
The virtues of boredom
Sometimes boredom helps us enjoy the simplicity of meditation. There are several kinds of boredom:
- One kind of boredom has an undercurrent of anxiety.
We’re not altogether comfortable with ourselves. When we sit down to meditate, we suddenly have no external amusement. Our senses are habituated to speed and stimulation. Without being stimulated, we find no way to satisfy ourselves.
But in meditation there’s nothing to reach for.
- Another kind of boredom is rooted in fear.
We’re afraid of being left alone with ourselves because we’re not able to relax with our mind. We want to maintain our comfort zone. We’re unable to go deeper with ourselves, and there’s nothing else to do.
In contemplative meditation we are getting to the inner essence of reality
After a certain point, the words fall away, but the meaning stays. We are not longer operating from the basis of concept. The subject-object separation is gone. The reality of birth, death, impermanence, and free and well-favored human birth has penetrated us.
That’s the point of contemplation–hearing, listening, understanding. It puts us in tune with the nature of things.
Seeing through ignorance and realizing the meaning of our lives is a very precise work–work for a mind that is stable, clear, and strong. It takes patience to do this practice.
Complement Turning the Mind Into an Ally with You are not your mind, a piece of The Power of Now where Eckhart Tolle takes readers on an inspiring spiritual journey to find their true and deepest self and reach the ultimate in personal growth and spirituality: the discovery of truth and light.