Wednesday April 25, 2007
When I first started out with meditation, it did not take me long to realise that my mind was an unruly and anarchic beast. It was hard to sit for ten, even five minutes. I was assailed by thoughts from all angles. I was bored. I kept opening my eyes and casting around for something else to think about. I could not keep my attention on the breath. But nevertheless, I persisted, imagining that it would only be a year or two and then I would have the whole business taped.
But now fast forward a decade and a bit to the present… Last night, as I sat in meditation, watching the breath, it struck me that despite quite a few years of practice, my mind is still, when it comes down to it, anarchic and unruly. It still rages hither and thither, it still lumbers around, throwing obstacles and hurdles in my way, tripping me up when I am unwary, sitting down in a sulk and refusing to co-operate at the most unhelpful times.
This is not to say that all this meditaiton has been entirely in vain. Some things, along the way, have changed. I can happily sit for longer than I once could. I do not find myself bored in meditation that much any more, and if so, then it is only infrequently. I am, I think, a little better at knowing the tricks that the beast that is my mind gets up to. And even when the mind is not particularly still and calm, I have a slightly greater appreciation of what stillness and calm there is amid the hullabaloo. But also I suspect I can see more clearly now that this turbulence, chaos and lack of stillness is, to some extent, simply something that the mind does; and no amount of wishing that it might be otherwise will change it. Practice helps, no doubt; it provides oases of stillness and calm. Nevertheless, it now seems inevitable to me that the mind will, all the same, go on being the mind.
So what is the point of it all? I think it was Joseph Goldstein – although I may be wrong, who, when he was asked about what he had got out of so many years of meditation, said that perhaps he took himself a little more lightly than he had in the past. And if this is the only result of all this practice, even then it seems to me to be worthwhile…
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