This Uposatha day, I feel like discussing my experience with finding some measure of inner tranquility. If calmness is the goal, where does one begin?
I’m not perfectly calm all the time, as my wife would surely attest, but I’ve abandoned a number of rather useless thoughts in a process that has helped me settle my mind. It is a continual work in progress, and I imagine it being so for a very long time.
The first thing I think one who wants to calm the mind (even just a little) needs to do is find ten minutes every day for quiet reflection. Stop everything and try to clear you mind of all the chaos that continually arises. During this time, when a thought about those dishes that need to be done, or that thing at work you haven’t finished, or your bills that aren’t paid, whatever it may be, just be aware of it and gently and lovingly remind yourself that for the next few minutes it is not time for those things. In your mind, see the thought pass away, to be thought again later, or possibly never if it was truly worthless.
While you’re in this moment, kindly reminding the mind to stop thinking about all those things, pay attention as much as you can to your breath and observe the fact that it is there. One breath in, one breath out, another in, another out… and so on and so forth. Consider that we often forget the breath entirely, but we have to admit to ourselves that breathing is not only critically important, but it is can be an incredibly pleasant feeling. Carry on in this way for a little while.
As you watch your breath, in particular the sensation of air bristling into and out of your nose or the movement of the abdomen, we can envision the energy of the breath flowing in and the chaos of our mind flowing out, taking negative energy away and leaving our mind less dirty, more luminous than before. For even just ten minutes a day (set an alarm and lock the bedroom door if you have to!), practice in this way earnestly for a while and you will find that the racing thoughts are less hurried and the mind can watch them, and slow them down (or even stop them) before they spiral out of control, turning into acts that we later regret.
Eventually you’ll even find that you can practice in this way while standing, walking, and even in conversation. When you find something frustrating and you see the breath change — you can learn to adjust this process so that little or no change can be discerned. You can keep your mind secluded from the chaos and operate independently of it, even while fully immersed in it.
This is training the mind to be calmer, and it is not something that can be done in an instant. Like any skill, this concentration must be honed. Release yourself of any expectations of calm, of quiet, and simply be there for that moment, concentrated as much as you can on your breath. The calm and quiet can come on its own.
a moment at a time,
the wise remove their own impurities
as a goldsmith removes the dross.
Dhammapada vs 239
May today be auspicious and your mind at peace, friends. I will write again soon.