George Clark, 3 March 2008
A little while alone in your room will
prove more valuable than anything else
that could ever be given you.
Most days I make time to just sit. I use the mobile phone to measure 20 minute sessions. I usually have two or three of them at a time.
Sometimes the sessions are noisy and full of worldly chatter and there is no escape from what might be thought of as normal, free-flowing, ego-besotted consciousness. The wild beast that is normal mind.
Sometimes, however, there is a move to stillness and a great peacefulness. This is best described by saying what it does not involve. It is free of I, me and mine thoughts with their associated cravings and aversions. It is free of the past and future and abides in a sense-less present that is independent of time and space.
But there are still some thoughts and feelings. The dynamic churn of the unconscious is still there; but the mental stuff it presents to consciousness is flimsy and in a light mist. It flows past like dry leaves on a peaceful river. Clock time is condensed and the 20 minutes are soon over. The wild beast has been tamed.
So what is such a mind good for? Two main things.
I find that (a) it offers a welcome break from the ego-besotted, time-framed, roller coaster ups and downs of the normal mind and (b) sometimes useful new ideas emerge spontaneously from the stillness. These might otherwise have remained buried in the unconscious. (This story is an example of such an emergence.)
'Just sitting' is a form of mindfulness meditation. There are many variations on the process of stilling, stopping and taming the wild beast which is normal mind. I have recently found it useful to 'aim and sustain' attention on half a breath at a time. This is an easy way to gain the encouragement of quick wins and to keep attention centred on the breathing.
Aim attention at the in breath and keep it there.
Aim attention at the out breath and keep it there.
Once the wild beast has been tamed it is safe to let go of the breathing and to rest in that delicious aspect of mind which is peaceful stillness.
Our purpose is not to follow the heart;
It is to train the heart.