Meditation

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Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to keep track of your thoughts?

Experiment: Sit quietly and pick a word or brief phrase to concentrate on. Spend two minutes concentrating on the word or phrase..

The mind wanders so easily from the topic we want to keep it on. It even may seem that the mind is, in its own nature, like bubbles on a river or a ball floating in a stream.

Actually the nature of the mind is just the water—not the bubbles or ripples on the surface or the movement, but just the water. Nevertheless, because of our addiction to the superficial appearances of things, we feel that the mind naturally goes from one thing to another. It is as though we are in a bus and the driver takes us wherever she wants, at which point we decide that wherever we have arrived is a nice place to be. This is what makes it difficult to engage in a practice like unbiased compassion, which opposes the conditioned flow of the mind.

Unbiased compassion, which runs against the grain of our usual outlook, is not easy, so it has to be cultivated in meditation.

An attitude such as unbiased compassion, which runs against the grain of our usual outlook, is not easy, so it has to be cultivated in meditation. Gradually, feeling develops, and then the felt attitude comes with only slight effort, and eventually it arises naturally and spontaneously. You practice in this way until compassion and altruism seem to form even the very stuff of your body.

It takes long meditation over months and years for new attitudes such as profoundly felt compassion to be sufficiently strong to remain of their own accord. Therefore, in the initial stages, the test of success is incremental progress, slight changes in daily behavior. Even with effective meditation, in which strong experience is gained during the session, it is easy to fall back into old attitudes in the midst of daily activities.

Unskilled meditators, based on what is indeed an overpoweringly deep experience during a session of meditation, sometimes cannot face that they so easily fall back into old habits. But we're used to old ways, and we slip back into them perhaps even more powerfully now that we have gained a more focused mind. Such reversion shows only that we need a sense of humor and more meditation.