Lesson Two: Mind Operation
Meditation is not about religion. It is a lesson of awareness. There are different types of meditation and they all bring us inner peace. Now that you have let the past go, you can meditate in peace.
Meditation goes beyond body and mind, to a state that transcends body and mind. It is not easy to describe because everyone has a different experience of meditation. You have to experience it yourself. However, it is a road with no shortcut, but if you persist, the journey will be fulfilling.
Set aside a regular time. To meditate every day at the same time is helpful, but not essential. Twice a day for a duration of between 10 to 15 minutes is probably ideal. You can meditate in a corner of your room, go outdoors, sit under a tree, or practise in any other place of your choosing. The important thing is that it must be somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed.
Meditation is the art and science of letting go. This letting go begins with the body and then progresses to thought. The mind will come up with lots of things to avoid meditation: go and check your Facebook, or send an email, or relax; more often we follow our thoughts like a dog follows a scent. These impulses are the habit energies of the mind. It takes cunning strategies and willpower to break your old habits.
When you begin to meditate, you will experience a great rush hour traffic of thoughts. But slowly, the street becomes less crowded, with less people and less cars; the gaps between thoughts becomes larger. If one continues patiently, in time it might be possible to achieve one minute of silence without thought.
FIRST PRACTICE: CONCENTRATION MEDITATION
Before we start with our mind operation, let’s start with concentration. This will help us to focus during our next practice. The power of concentration is the ability to focus the mind on one single object or thought to the exclusion of everything else. Concentration is of immense value in life. It helps us work more efficiently, strengthens our memory and makes us more conscious and aware of our surroundings. Concentration is vital for creative visualisation and affirmation, but it requires practice, like any other skill. The mind may resist your efforts to control and calm it down, since it does not like to be controlled. But with simple yet effective exercises, it is possible to train the mind and teach it to focus.
Take a colourful sticker and place it on the wall where you can see it clearly. Alternatively, take a colourful book and place it on the table in front of you. Focus on the sticker or the book with all your concentration. Try not to think of anything else. If the mind wanders, gently return it to your object. It is not necessary to sit with crossed legs to do this; you can do it anywhere, even at work. And if, in casual conversation with someone, you can talk and pay more attention to that person, your concentration skills will develop.
MIND OPERATION. BREATHING AND THOUGHT OBSERVATION
Breathing or thought observation has the same method of meditation. You must set your intention to whether you are observing your breathing or your thoughts. Please just do one at a time to experience the benefit.
The observation of the reality within oneself is a method whereby one penetrates the depths of the mind in order to remove the roots of the impurities. This is what we call mind operation. Whenever anything comes into contact with the six sensory bases, a sensation occurs. The mind reacts with liking or disliking. For example, you hear a sound – if the word is praise, then a pleasant/settled sensation arises with liking, but if it is an abusive word then an unpleasant/gross sensation arises with dislike.
Since every thought, emotion and mental action is accompanied by a corresponding sensation within the body, observing the sensation means that we also observe the mind. Sensation serves as the crossroads for where the mind and body meet.
Mind operation sounds a bit scary because of the connotations of the word “operation?. But it is something that you can do in the privacy of your own home. Mind operation is a simple technique but effective. It is not a one-time shot. It is difficult – like anything that requires the mind to operate is difficult; we are all aware of the mind’s tendency to endlessly resist. Therefore, you have to work hard to pass the mind’s resistance; it has to be continuously in use in order to be effective. You may wonder at the word “operation?. It is a pain-free operation and the only tools you shall need are: intention, attention, determination, diligence, patience, and the skill to relax the body first and let the mind follow. And when suitably relaxed, you can start to observe the dark chamber of the mind within.
Whilst the body is in a relaxed state, you will start to feel a sensation. It is like a gentle itch on your body, akin to a spider or ants crawling on your back and arms, proceeding to every part of your body. This creeping is not outside but inside, and has been there the whole time, except you have never felt it due to your mind and body being so preoccupied with other things. The gross sensations come out first followed by the settle sensation or neutral sensation. Gross sensations are more negative energies while settle sensation serve as more positive energies. By the law of nature, these gross sensations (negative) and settle sensations (positive) never walk hand and hand. The negative always emerges first followed by settle or neutral sensation.
Undoubtedly, these scorpions, centipedes and snakes have been the source of much unconscious suffering. But now that they have begun to emerge, observe them impassively. Don’t even scratch. Just pay attention to how the sensations feel. Just say yourself silently, ‘I wonder how long it will last?’ and carry on observing. There are three types of sensation that arise in the body; pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. But all are impermanent. Observe them without judgement; just accept impassively as they arise within the body and then fade away and cease. The condition of being a watcher makes disagreeable sensations subside and disappear, as if impurities were being gradually eradicated under an attentive gaze, and what was unpleasant soon becomes pleasant. Now we can begin to enjoy our peace.
If you want to do it right, start the mind operation when you have time off work or during the weekend, when you won’t be disturbed. The operation can take at least one hour and extend to three hours a day if you split the time into morning, noon and evening. Settle yourself comfortably (the important thing is you have your back straight), and then start the operation. Our eyes are the window of our mind. If you close your eyes you minimise the noise of inner chat and other distractions, and it aids concentration.
Take a comfortable position, with the body balanced in the chair and your feet fully on the floor, or sit quietly with your back straight in a cross-legged position with your hips elevated above your knees.
If you cannot get your hips above your knees, sit on as many blocks or folded blankets as necessary until you achieve this position. This posture helps the energy flow freely. Or lie down with your arms close to your body, with your back straight. Close your eyes gently (not tightly) and take a long breath through your nose. Let it out slowly and gently through your mouth. Do this three times and then relax, letting the breathing find its own rhythm. Bring your awareness slowly through your body, allowing all the muscles to relax. Take your time and enjoy the process of letting go of the tension.
Once the body is relaxed and at peace, hold the moment. Become aware of what the body is feeling in the present. Notice the entry and exit of your breath, but do not interfere with it, just feel it. Now focus your awareness on your upper lip, at the entrance of your nostrils in the moustache area. Just observe this area for a while. The precision of the focus helps the mind to concentrate. Continue to observe your breath and feel the sensations of the air pass through your nose without trying to control it or force your mind. To make it easy to focus your mind at the beginning, you might like to use the words “let go” – timing let to coincide with inhalation and go with exhalation. Very quickly you will become aware of just how restless the mind is. When the mind starts to wander, return it to awareness by paying heightened attention to your breathing and silently mouthing “let go” if necessary.
Then shift your breathing observation to observing your bodily sensations. Move attention systematically throughout the physical body structure from head to feet and reverse from feet to head. Do not search for any particular sensation or to avoid some; pay attention to each sensation for a few seconds and continue as you scan your body. The sensation maybe of any kind such as: heat, itching, cold, contraction, vibration or anything else occurs. If you find both gross and settle sensations occur, then just focus on the gross ones. At some point there will be no more gross sensations, then reappear again just because they come from dipper level. Just keep observing until there is only settle sensation left.
Again, when you notice that the mind has wandered away, patiently and calmly bring it back again, and do it again and again. The task requires repeated, continuous practice and patience.
OR THOUGHT OBSERVATION
After these exercises, take your time and enjoy the process of body relaxation. Bring your awareness to your thoughts as they come into awareness and fade away from awareness. Try to not be biased towards any particular thought; regard all of them as the same passing show. Compare them to how you watch clouds in the sky – just observing them impassively. When you start this meditation, you will notice how one thought quickly replaces another one from the past with another one from the future. Your mind is racing. After a while, especially with practice, you will see your mind slowing down and successive thoughts will seem to appear with distinct gaps between them.
When ready, gently and slowly open your eyes and then mindfully move into whatever activities you had planned and continue with your day.
By observing ourselves, we become aware of the conditioned reactions, the accumulated inner tensions that keep us agitated, miserable and cloud our mental faculties. All these can be removed through the process of observation. However, only actual practice will give concrete results and bring inner peace.
Most people are unaware of how addicted they are to their emotions, and how the brain perpetuates those addictions automatically. We become slaves to our emotional addictions without even realising it. By observing our patterns of thought, we learn how to “rewire” the brain with new thought patterns. We can break the cycle that keeps us trapped and open ourselves to new possibilities for growth, happiness and emotional satisfaction.
Some people just practice once and go back to their old habits with a resounding “I can’t do it”. This is what the mind wants; it demands to be in control. You must not let it. But when you are sitting with closed eyes and watching your thoughts and observing how the gaps between thoughts are getting larger and larger, and for one minute no thought at all moves on the screen of your awareness; then you know you are taming your mind.