One of the first insights beginner meditators see is this previously unconscious stream of inner dialogue. The ceaseless movement of the untrained mind. It constantly changes, like the weather at Machu Picchu. Rain, snow, sun, wind. Likes, dislikes, emotions, plans, worries, memories, stories.
Mindfulness meditation is learning to steady our attention on the present moment, finding a wise and loving awareness in our relationship to this natural change of body and heart and mind in every season.
For the mind to become steady, it is necessary to develop a degree of stability through concentration. Concentration is the art of calming and steadying our attention, like a candle flame in a windless place. As we train ourselves to become mindful of breath and body, we can see more clearly and become more present.
To steady and focus the mind takes time, practice, self-care and patience. Jack Kornfield shares that training the mind in meditation is like training a puppy. We put the puppy down and say, “Sit. Stay.” What does it do? It gets up and runs around. “Stay.” It turns around again. Twenty times, “Stay.” After a while, slowly, the puppy settles down.
This is the same with our minds in meditation practice. At the beginning we may be present only 2% of the time. 98% spent thinking, planning, daydreaming, whatever. After a few weeks you may be concentrating for 5% Being fives times more present to touch the earth, to feel the breeze, to see the eyes of others, to be awake to our senses is no small improvement. Try it, you'll see.
The development of steady concentration comes through nurturing an inner peacefulness. As our meditative skill grows, we learn that the mind becomes concentrated not through strain and struggle, but from letting go of anxiety about the past and future, and relaxing into the present.
Let me write that again.
Relaxing into the present moment.
Over and over and over again. We feel our mind tighten.....relax.
We feel tension on our bodies, our hands and chest....relax.
This is a natural process and a wonderful informal practice that is simple and available to us all. For more on this way of being you may want to read The Relaxed Mind by Dza Kilung Rinpoche.
But remember, it’s all in the practice, and that’s why it’s called practice.