Meditation is a practice that requires patience. I start meditating first thing in the morning because my anxiety is strongest then. Meditation calms my mind and helps me be more present and attentive to what’s going on around me. Yesterday, however, I didn’t take the time to meditate. Big mistake!
I spent the day running, literally and physically from one event to the next. An early morning zoom meeting, followed by a noon memorial for a writer friend, and a late afternoon birthday party. The zoom meeting was a gathering of women, I could have made a beautiful connection, but to tell the truth, I wasn’t there. My mind was busy planning—don’t forget to take the easel, buy the balloons, and grab that salad from the refrigerator. Unfortunately, I was off in the future, my mind forging ahead in a rapid-fire of commands, robbing me of my experience in the present.
The same thing happened at the memorial. All I could think about was making it on time to the next event. Rather than talking to people and really listening, my mind was focused on the wall clock, worrying about how I was going to bow out early before everyone else. I had a mental checklist going in my mind. I’ll leave in half an hour, I’ll leave in fifteen minutes, my mind was chattering on.
The chaotic mental chatter is what Venerable Dhammananda calls “Monkey Mind.” The chatter thoughts were a good example of how my mind spins so fast that I completely lose track of where I am and others around me.
There are three places our mind can take us, past, present, and future. I usually focus on the future, planning, planning, planning. Other people focus on the past. But very few of us are firmly grounded in the present. Fortunately, that’s what meditation is all about, awareness, staying present with our feelings, and experiencing the now.
In the recent episode of Casual Buddhism, Venerable Dhammananda and Venerable Paripunna talk about how to settle the active mind:
- Don’t try to control the mind, simply let it be.
- Scan the body visually from head to toe. Focus on relaxing the forehead, the mouth, the shoulders and so forth. Go through your entire body.
- Next, focus your awareness at the tip of the nose.
- Observe your breath going in and out. After a while, you will feel your breath become finer and your body will become still. When your breath becomes soft and you hardly notice it, you will enter a state of calm concentration.
Perhaps if I had meditated yesterday and made a conscious decision to slow down, I might have been more aware. The more I practice meditation by anchoring in my breath and body, the more skilled I become at quieting my mind and tuning into the present. Meditation reminds me of this saying, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
If you want to hear Venerable Dhammananda talk about meditation, check out my recent conversation with her on Casual Buddhism. In my memoir, Finding Venerable Mother you can read about my struggles with meditation. Buy it here.