The Psychology of Freedom
Allow your mind to settle, using the breath as a support.
Allow your mind to focus more on the out breath.
Notice how the body relaxes and naturally releases the breath.
Have in your awareness the fact that this releasing is effortless.
Notice how thoughts and feelings arise. If the mind becomes involved with them the mind becomes disturbed and unsettled. Instead of being involved, allow yourself to release. Gently release the thoughts and feelings into the out-breath. You don't push them away or try to get rid of them. You simply release them. Let the mind relax. The mind lets go of any sense that it has to do something or struggle or strive to achieve. Let go of any sense of success or failure. The mind rests at ease. Very simply focused on the breath.
END OF MEDITATION
STUDENT: Thoughts wandered.
RN: Thoughts wandered. Who didn't have thoughts wandering? It doesn't mean you are naughty or bad or that you have failed. It's just what happens. Now, it's quite interesting isn't it? How many times have you formed the intention to have a cup of tea and gone and had porridge instead? You form the intention to rest your mind on the breath and mind wanders. Why is that? Why does it do that? It is habit! We could call it conditioning or habit. Where is that habit rooted? In the unconscious. Can we get some idea of the way that the whole thing comes together? Habit arising out of the unconscious mind. We can observe our conscious awareness. That we are familiar with. That is what decides to have tea. Then when we meditate we begin to observe that conscious awareness is being shaped all the time by underlying forces. Now this is very interesting because normally we are not really aware of that. Normally we think we are kind of 'Boss' of this ramshackle outfit we call 'Me'. 'I'm Boss'. But, as soon as we start looking just below the surface we begin to discover something quite different. You know, a little while ago when multi-nationals were beginning to become very powerful there were a few conspiracy theories that the multi-nationals were going to take over and rule the world. There are some multi-nationals that have bigger economies than small countries; that's how powerful they are. So, some guy got interested in this conspiracy theory and he decided he would investigate a couple of these multi-nationals and discover 'who was conspiring', who were these shadowy figures who were controlling or seeking to control the world. So he began to look into the policy making decisions of these big companies. And guess what he discovered? There's nobody there! In a lot of them there is no over all single body or person who decides "This is the policy". What he discovered was a kind of amorphous ad-hoc responding to market forces or whatever but there was no individual or group of individuals who actually had any clear understanding of where this giant organisation was going. It is just moving along under it's own impetus. And we are no different! We are moving along under the impetus of all those habitual tendencies - These habitual patterns.
So, we have begun a journey. Has anyone seen the Zen Ox-herding pictures? They depict the meditators search for the mind (typically they are drawn in beautiful circles). And the first one; the meditator is a little man, wandering bewildered in the countryside. He doesn't see anything. Second one, he sees a hoof print in the ground. Third one, he catches sight of a hoof disappearing out of sight at the edge of the picture. So, the mind is depicted as a bull, and the little man is us, looking for the mind, trying to see it. It is quite possible that we are at the stage of the first or second picture. We don't even know where the mind is, (assuming it exists!) And then, the first thing that we do is we see a trace of it; we see an imprint. And the trace of it is - distraction. When we are drawn away into distraction then we are getting a trace of what it is that has caused that. This mind. Then when our mindfulness develops a little bit we actually get a glimpse of the moment when a thought arises and the decision is made to move away from mindfulness into thinking. That's the first glimpse. So, that's what we're going to be doing.
Now, the mind is not some abstract thing. I mean, in terms of Buddhist psychological analysis we know that the 'Mind' doesn't even exist, but for the moment we are talking as though it does, because to us it does seem real. And the distinguishing feature of what we call mind is the sense of self. And the over-riding energy in relation to it is grasping. But in the beginning we don't recognise either. Because they have always been there. They have always been the context of all our experience. So they happen naturally and therefore we don't recognise them. And it is very difficult to turn around and start to recognise that which has always been there and taken for granted. To recognise and clearly see it for what it is.
The reason we come on retreat is so that we can create for ourselves a very specific environment - it is the environment in which we can train to be mindful. Mindful is being 'in the moment', knowing what is happening, while it is happening. That is the whole context of retreat, to give ourselves an environment within which we can do this. And if we do this for three days, we keep bringing our mind back, into focus, knowing what is happening while it is happening, knowing what we are doing, while we are doing it, a change will start to come about in the mind - quite definitely, there is no doubt about that. The mind begins to settle down. The restlessness, the distractedness, the activity, definitely begins to subside. And, it is as though the surface layer begins to come to rest a little bit. And it does that because we are not constantly engaging and responding to external stimuli in the way we normally do. Probably the commonest external stimulus that we all respond to is interaction with other human beings; talking and interacting in various ways. Every time we interact, in any way at all, our minds are affected. They get churned up again. You can think of a pond of water or an ocean. It's nature is to be completely still, but what causes it to be turbulent is the wind passing across it. Every time the wind passes across it, it disturbs it to some degree. If it is a light breeze it will just cause little ripples. If it is a strong wind it will start causing more movement. If it is a sustained gale you will have huge crashing waves. And our minds are just like that. The more we involve ourselves with external stimuli, the more the mind is disturbed and churned around.
Like the ocean, a certain energy is invested in it so that even when the external stimulus stops, the movement continues. So, we have a session, we sit, we meditate, bring the mind in to a little bit of calmness and then we go and have tea and have a good old gas. We come back and we sit and the first half of the meditation is spent processing all the stuff we've been talking about. We go through it, re-running it, having new conversations taking off in different directions, planning what we'll say when we go out at lunch time. Then eventually we remember that we are here to meditate and we settle in the last ten minutes of the session, and then we go and have lunch and the whole thing starts up again.
And that is happening all the time; the interaction is generating new impressions, new potentials in our minds. And those impressions and potentials are going to come out, definitely! And then we are going to want to process them. We are going to want to take hold of them, play around with them, develop them. So it is absolutely inevitable that every interaction that you have is going to disturb your mind. There is no way round it! It is not possible for that not to happen. So, it's two steps forward, two steps back. One step forward, half a step back. Three steps forward, two and a half back. That is what happens if we talk. When I came out of the four year retreat I went back to South Africa and after I had been there a week I went to a movie with a friend. Guess what movie I saw; Bladerunner! and the imagery from that movie flashed into my mind so powerfully at regular intervals for the next two weeks. It was just like complete visions would flash into my mind. And then I understood how, when the mind settles, it becomes very receptive and then how powerfully stimuli impact and then replay themselves. Because they impact with their own energy and that energy gets taken in to the mind and is going to come out. So one of the reasons for silence in retreat is to give us a chance to step aside from all that normal level of receiving stimuli so that we can allow the mind to settle more and more as the days go by. Now, we don't want to do this because we are habituated to interacting, to talking and so on. We find it comfortable, we find it interesting, we find it enjoyable. We like it! And therefore, we don't like not to do it. And therefore we feel uncomfortable if we don't do it. Isn't that so? Just a little bit uncomfortable. The discomfort is the discomfort of not acting out our normal grasping tendencies. That is what it is. So, if you want to get the full benefit out of this retreat, try to keep Noble Silence and observe how the mind has a problem with it (if it has a problem). Use it as part of your meditation training, observing how the mind responds. Hugely instructive!