Week 2: Focusing the Mind

temple

To think well of all, to be cheerful with all,
To patiently learn to find the good in all—
Such unselfish thoughts are the very portals of heaven;
And to dwell day by day in thoughts of peace toward every creature
Will bring abounding peace to their possessor.

- James Allen


Goals

In this second week you will:

  • Continue your regular, daily meditation practice in your special spot.
  • Learn more about how to focus your mind through concentration.
  • Learn how to meditate with your eyes open.

A New Awareness

In your meditation during the first week, did you have the following experience? The moment you tried to quiet your mind, it filled with a million thoughts!

You were probably shocked at just how rambunctious your mind is. And you may have become a bit discouraged as a result. Don’t be discouraged! This is a universal experience.

Step back for a moment, though, and think about it—unless you had meditated before, this was probably the first time you had ever really noticed your thoughts. And if you were actually aware of your thoughts, that means that you have a higher, deeper consciousness that is separate from your mind. This is a great achievement! You have already reached a level of awareness beyond what most people will achieve in their lifetime.

You are probably still wondering why it is that you seem to have more thoughts as soon as you start to meditate. In reality you don’t.

Imagine that your mind is a car travelling down the highway at high speed. When the windows are closed, you’re flowing along with the car, and you don’t have much of a feeling for how fast you are actually going. However, if you open the window and put your head outside, what happens? Wham! You get hit in the face by a blast of air, and you suddenly have a very good sense of how fast you are going. The question is, was the blast of air always there, moving that fast? The answer, of course, is yes.

This is exactly what happens when you first try to quiet your mind. In your ordinary day-to-day awareness, you are flowing along with your mind’s thoughts, and you’re not aware of how many thoughts there are and how fast they are going. But as soon as you start meditating, it’s as if you put your head out of the car window and you get hit by a blast of thoughts. Were the thoughts always there? They were, only you weren’t aware of them.

So if you are trying to meditate and you become aware that you are having millions of thoughts, don’t worry. That awareness is exactly what you need. Once you are aware of your thoughts, only then can you gently bring your focus back to your breath, or the candle, or to whatever it is you are focusing on during your meditation.

My heart needs only one thing:
It needs to be guided
Along the age-old path
Of life-blossoming
Self-awareness.

- Sri Chinmoy
 

But will my mind ever become quiet?

Yes! Remember, you are trying to discipline a mind that has been free to roam for a long time. And as you have discovered, it is impossible to shut it off all at once. That’s why you will be focusing on concentration this week. By concentrating the mind, you may still be thinking, but at least you are thinking about only one thing, and it will be you that is directing your mind, not vice versa.

Your muscles respond to regular exercise. In the same way, as you continue your daily meditation practice, your mind will become more disciplined and the number of thoughts you have will diminish. But try not to evaluate how well you are doing; you can be sure that if you are practicing regularly you are making solid progress.

When the mind stops talking,
The heart starts dreaming
And life starts blossoming.

- Sri Chinmoy
 

If you find it difficult to deal with the flood of thoughts during meditation, you can use some simple imagery. Think of your consciousness as the vast ocean or the limitless sky, and your thoughts are like fish swimming or birds flying by in the distance. The important thing is to feel that the thoughts are insignificant, and that you don’t have to follow them.

So please be patient. With regular practice, you will definitely notice positive changes not only in your meditation, but in your day-to-day life as well.