As you can see in the drawing to the left, there is a person (let’s call him Steve for easy reference), walking along side his dog. Steve’s thought-bubble is cluttered with thoughts and images while the dog’s thought-bubble is clear. As they both walk through the park, the dog sees the sun and the trees up ahead but Steve sees nothing but the clutter. The dog is fully enjoying the moment while Steve is completely lost in his own mind (world). Steve is a common example of how most people live a great majority of their lives. The dog is a perfect example of mindfulness – a real zen master! This is ironic because I’ll bet you somewhere in all that clutter, Steve thinks he is the dog’s master.
Human beings have been blessed with the ability to think, analyze and solve problems to a higher degree than any other animal on the planet. However, this same blessing can turn against us if we lose control of it. Unfortunately, this is far too common. Our minds are often full of random and chaotic thoughts, visualizations and music etc. Can you imagine what it would be like if you went onto your computer and you tried to do some work while there was a Youtube video playing, some music playing and ads constantly popping up in front of your screen? Good luck getting anything productive done.
In a similar way, we often leave programs running in our minds all day without realizing it. This makes it very difficult to lead productive or even healthy lives. Why? In a computer, if several programs are running at the same time then the CPU (main processor) will become over-taxed and it will slow down. Our minds get stressed too and this eventually carries over into the rest of our being. Every thought or image we produce in our mind takes energy, therefore we can quickly become drained from this incessant thinking. What’s worse is that most people will never make the connection between their stressed out state of being and their inability to control their mind.
With the practice of mindfulness meditation, you learn to watch your mind. You learn to step outside of your mind and simply observe. Once you catch yourself thinking a thought or visualizing an image, you just detach yourself from it and watch it fade away. This practice helps you to regain control of your mind and to use it only when the need arises. The mind then becomes a tool which you use and not the other way around. In other words, master your mind or it will master you.
How many programs (thoughts, images and music, etc.) are running through your mind right now? How about when you’re at home? How about at work? How stressed and tense does your body get when your mind is overloaded?
Here is a simple exercise you can do anytime. Please take a moment and try to pay attention to which muscles in your body are tense. Now clear your mind, take a deep breath and focus on relaxing those muscles. Repeat this for 10-20 breaths (without thinking).
How does that exercise feel? Mindfulness feels great doesn’t it? This is why practicing mindfulness is one of the 9 habits in my book which I recommend you read if you want to learn more about this habit (and how to successfully develop it).
Finally, I would like to bring your attention back to Steve and his dog and leave you with this question. If the dog is fully engaged in the walk and Steve is lost in his own world, who’s walking who?
Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment.
Enjoy this beautiful Sunday! Bye for now.