For most of us, we spend our lives with clouded judgement and have momentary glances at beautiful things. We play movies in our minds of scenarios that could happen. We justify them by thinking they help us prepare for the future. How are we going to respond when our boss yells at us? What witty things are we going to say to give us satisfaction?
Then there are moments when the movies stop and we are somewhat alert to what is going on around us. We see the squirrels running through the yard. Except this time we make judgement, we add to what is in front of us. “My there are many squirrels today” or “they must be destroying the trees”. As humans we like to make assumptions, to try and solve things that aren’t even problems. Then when we find real problems we become stressed out or are quick to judging them.
A common analogy for our perception is viewing life through a pond. When the water is still you can see through the surface but with even the most minor agitation the surface is distorted. When the water becomes chaotic you cannot begin to make out even the reflection from the water.
The agitation in this example is thinking. When we think and identify with our thoughts we cloud what is right in front of us. We could have the most beautiful sunset but not notice it because we are “in our heads”. We’ve shaken the water and now we cannot see.
Lately, much of my life has been about calming those waters. I try to let the thoughts pass through my mind without focusing on them. The thinker that is in our heads is constantly generating thoughts whether we want it to or not. In addition, I do not believe we can ever reach a spot where we do not have thoughts. We can, however, stop constantly associating with them.
Noticing is the first step towards calming your mind and perceptions. Notice when your mind strays from what you’re currently doing. When I’m walking sometimes my mind drifts and I find myself thinking about what I’m going to be doing when I get off work or when the weekend finally arrives. Then what I do is look around and remind myself what is right in front of me. The trees, the grass, the buildings, the smell of the fresh air. I experience what is right in front of me.
It sounds incredibly easy but your mind wanders often and is rarely completely focused. What works for me is using a word to bring back my focus. I won’t go far into the details of mine but I use the Japanese word “Mu”. It means not, or not applicable. However it’s been adapted and is understood in a much more complex way. To me it means is and is not. It’s the duality between everything. Everything is and is not. So when I say the word mu I understand and accept what is going on in my mind but move back into the moment. The thought is but at the same time it is not.
So when I’m walking and my mind wanders I bring my attention back into the moment and say “mu”. It’s as if I acknowledge that my mind is drifted but I don’t skip a beat getting back into the moment. This can be difficult with thoughts that appear “important” but if it’s really that important you can recall it when you have time. As you practice this in your daily life you will become more attuned to everything and notice when your mind wanders.
When the waters start shifting you can notice and calm them. Bringing yourself back into the moment. In another post I’ll write about the value of living in the moment but this is a method of getting back into the moment or living present.