Guest blog by Jim Barrett – Serenity Community Member
When someone recently told me that they often couldn’t sleep because their mind just kept spinning around and wouldn’t stop, I suggested that they visit one of our meditation groups. I was told sadly that meditation wouldn’t work for them because their mind wouldn’t stay in one place for that long, they couldn’t concentrate like that.
I gently tried to explain that if only the people who could concentrate and focus their minds perfectly meditated there probably wouldn’t be very many meditators. In fact, I continued, I believe one of the purposes of meditating is to help build the muscles of the mind. Meditating is, for the mind, what a workout is for the body.
Using the gentle, persistent return to the Now during meditation is the mental equivalent to lifting weights. One starts with a level and intensity with which they are comfortable and through regular exercise of their mental muscles they get better and better at telling their mind what to do and having it obey. You sit in your space and when your mind goes someplace else you gently and persistently bring it back to the Now. Over and over and over. Like a would-be runner who can only jog a few moments before becoming winded and one day finds themselves trotting along for forty five minutes or an hour, the meditator gradually learns to keep their mind in the Now for longer and longer periods. Among other things this process teaches us patience and, perhaps most importantly, it teaches us patience with ourselves, which for many people is much harder than having patience with others.
Some Ways have a practitioner focus their minds on a thing; breathing, a mantra, a candle, focusing the mind like a zoom lens. Other Ways have one focus the mind on nothing, passing thoughts and sensations through the mind with no attachment or comment, a mental wide angle lens. Whichever Way one chooses, the focus is a tool to bring us into the Now. Our ability to use a tool quickly and efficiently grows with practice. So does the ability to discipline our mind
Please understand, the purpose here is not necessarily to reformat our brains to live only or entirely in the Now, although some Ways strive for just that. Mostly we want to be able to bring ourselves to that calm and stable mental place when we need or want to. That way, when a crisis occurs or we can’t get to sleep we can take the deep abdominal breaths with which we start our meditations and we will automatically return to the Now, grounded and centered, our minds calm and serene. And yes, the same processes can help us experience pleasurable moments of our lives quite intensely. Human interactions can be quite interesting when the people involved are in the Now. What greater compliment or gift could we give to another person besides our complete, undivided, focused attention?
Jim – Serenity Community Member