Is there any way to truly quiet these voices in our heads? You know, the ones that are continually making stories. And often it seems that any attempt to do so only creates additional frustration and even more fiery stories.
I think that many people believe that meditation quiets the mind, and eliminates the stories and disturbing emotions. But more often than not, this is not the case at all. Our minds begin to rage with wildfires that only grow as we fan the flames. Which is likely a key reason that many people believe they cannot meditate.
We can sit and repeat “May I be well, happy and peaceful” until we turn blue in the face, but nothing has changed. No disturbing thoughts or emotions have been eliminated, in fact many may have increased in ferocity!
So what does one do to settle the mind, become peaceful and at ease? Is there a way to extinguish the fires in our minds?
I believe the first step in quelling these fires is in realizing that there is no need to do so in the first place. We need to understand that it is actually the grasping for happiness that ignites these emotions. Which does not mean we should not be happy, only that it is that desire for happiness which causes our displeasure and discomfort to begin with.
This life is guaranteed to throw curve balls our way, and even in the best of times, the unexpected should be accepted lovingly. And I think this is a good starting place for each of us. We cannot control anything. Which does not mean that we should be irresponsible or neglect our obligations, but to just understand that ultimately we are not in control.
I always find it most fascinating how the body reacts to different situations. Most noticeably when there are powerful circumstances which arise. The death of a loved one, financial disasters, sometimes even fights with a friend or Family member can cause this experience as well. Physically, we easily begin to feel ill. Sometimes our breathing is labored, our heart races, sick to our stomach, we cannot focus our attention, tightness in our entire body can cause us to lash out at others due to what seems like insurmountable frustration and/or fear. Even sitting on the cushion can feel like an exercise in futility. I know because I have experienced this myself very recently. Feeling as though I wanted to rocket off my cushion and run from the temple. But I had to face the fact that there was nowhere I could run to escape my own mind. That darned thing was going to follow me no matter where I went!
The solution, the peace and quiet, actually came outside of meditation. It was the arising of clarity that this is life. And if I only brought myself back to the present moment I could see that life is beautiful. I am alive, I’m healthy, I have a beautiful loving Family and so many dear Noble friends. And there is no amount of struggling with my mind that will make things better or worse, it is just life. Any sadness or physical discomfort is purely my imagination running away with me.
So yes, gratitude and present moment awareness are key, but even more important is the acceptance of things being exactly as they are supposed to be. None of which, of course, would be possible today were it not for my practice. And meditation is like the exercise that prepares each of us for every moment off of the cushion. This is the real practice, where we live and breath what he have cultivated through so many wholesome qualities and gentle determination.
I can only suggest to each of you, that regardless of your present circumstances, that you do not delude yourself into attaching to any of these so-called good or bad feelings. You will only be planting the seeds of dissatisfaction.
Don’t waste this moment, live joyfully my friends!