The clouds that wander through the sky
Have no roots, no home;
Nor do the distinctive thoughts that float through the mind.
Once this is seen discrimination stops.
Rest at ease your body.
Giving not, nor taking,
Put your mind at rest.
Maha Mudra is like a mind that clings to nothing.
Song of the Maha Mudra by Tilopa (great Buddhist tantric and master of Milarepa)
The mind space takes the form of the universe of our lives just like water takes the form of its container. Its content is thoughts. Life is experienced through thoughts. That is why meditation is about paying attention to thoughts. On March 16, we talked about how thoughts arise, modify, and distort perception through the four pairs of opposites: attraction to pleasure, gain, fame, and praise; aversion to pain, loss, notoriety and blame.
Just as a stone thrown in a lake creates ripples, thoughts create ripples, waves, and whirlpools in the mind space. Thought is a more subtle object than a physical object–it generates a mental force or energy wave in the mind space.
Thoughts are filed in three places: the unconscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the conscious mind. This way our brain is not overloaded. Some become short-term memory, some long-term memory.
Thoughts get modified, distorted, and filed, coloring our perception and reality, due to our habitual thinking around the four pairs of opposites. There are five ways in which this modification or distortion happens. One is when we mistake one thing for another: a rope for a snake, mother-of-pearl as a piece of silver. Our habitual conditioned fears make it hard to distinguish the right physical object from the wrongly perceived one. There is the verbal form of this—when we jump to wrong conclusion about what someone says without waiting to consider its context and meaning. In sleep our thoughts can be greatly modified. Memory too modifies and distorts thoughts—we wonder how a group of people having been at the same event can have such different memories of it. There is also another class of modification: when what we know within is in conflict with what is seen outside. There is incessant chatter.
Our minds are non-stop TV and radio stations that we cannot seem to switch off! Yoga is the state as well as the process of stopping this internal noise and chatter—stilling the lake of the mind. It certainly is very helpful to sit in a quiet room, but what about the noise inside our heads? Even in the stillness of a mountain top or the depths of a cave, if the mind is not still there will be no peace.
One way out of the mental noise is to observe the content of the mind as a spectator so we do not throw in more stones, cause more ripples. With a neutral attention, the existing thoughts can resolve and dissipate, dissolve into the stillness causing no more waves. Observe the thought, do not grab the thought or become the thought. You as the awareness are not the thought, just as you are not the tree, the building. Do not add anything to the thought—just see it as an object, no thinking, no analysis right now. Any thoughts that arise spontaneously around it should also be just seen with neutral awareness. Slowly the mind will start to declutter. Moments not wrapped and consumed in thoughts will be the moments of silence– that is the space between thoughts and of grace, peace, clarity. Another way is supplanting painful thoughts with painless ones—through the day keep the mind occupied by mantra, spoken sacred word or phrase/the rosary, sing chants, the breath. Awareness can a wide-angle lens, medium lens, or narrowly focused depending on the practice.
I have not recorded the meditation that we did in class and so there is no accompanying audio track.