On letting be

When I meditated today, my mind was not settled. After setting the mental “guardkeeper”, my mind went on a journey of fantasies, jumping from the present into the past and leaping into the future. Over time, it gradually settled on the meditation object of the breath.

Out of the blue, it went from settled, to a thought about work. And it stayed there for a good few minutes, as it also went along, generating even more thoughts.

My mind then abruptly came to a halt, noted “those were thoughts, and not the object to focus on”, and the mind very naturally came back to the breath.

The interesting thing is that this was done automatically, without any force. How did that happen?

As my teacher often says, if one acts like a dictator to one’s own mind, the mind will tend to rebel. But if one is kind and gentle to one’s own mind, and lets the mind naturally experience the gentle pleasure of meditation, over time it is very easy to gently re-direct the mind back to the meditation object.

Why? Because the mind has tasted the pleasure of stillness and letting go. Then there’s no need to force, just like there’s no need to force a hungry cat to eat cat food. 🙂

On really being here

I’ve started a mindfulness course at work (which I’ve titled “Mindfulness@Work”), which I’ve used to download what I’ve learnt over the years as a meditator, and to share best practices.

An interesting thing happened on Wednesday, when we did the “mindful listening exercise” (which I took from Chade Meng’s Search Inside Yourself, which is incidentally a very good book which I highly recommend for beginners & working professionals). For those who’ve not done this, the mindful listening exercise involves 3 mins of just listening, with acknowledgement & nodding, without any interruptions whatsoever.

After the class, I asked if there were any comments/feedback. The first comment that came about was from a young man, who said, “It feels unnatural. It’s like, when you hear someone say something, you naturally want to ask a question but you’re not allowed to.”

Me: OK. So when you’re thinking of a question, are you listening?

Young Man: Yes, yes, I’m able to do both at the same time… but I can’t ask the question. Can I?

Me: No, you can’t. But let me ask, can you really do both things at the same time?

Young man: Yes!

Me: Actually, there are studies that show that you can’t really multitask, but instead your mind is just switching very quickly between tasks. (In fact, even just #2secondglance could make a huge difference when driving, as per the latest driving safety campaign video.)

So, when you say you’re both thinking the question and also listening, let me ask: are you listening to what’s being said, or listening to the question in your head?

I think that got through to him, because he then went “Hmm”.

So, are you really listening, or are you listening to the voice in your head?