Archive for August, 2009

That’s My Brain Making Toast

August 6, 2009

So how is your meditation practice going?  If you have ever tried to meditate, then you know that your mind likes to stay busy with lots of thoughts.  I know that I might be trying to focus in on a single mantra, but my mind will wander.  Whether you are a beginner or an expert, that’s just part of the meditation – you focus on the one thing you are trying to stay focused on, then your mind drifts to something else, then you catch yourself, and then you bring yourself back to what you are focusing on.  That’s just part of meditation.

You may notice that you are thinking about an upcoming meeting at work, or a disagreement you are having with a friend, or a conversation about the dishes you wish you could have with your spouse, or that the lawn needs to be mowed, etc.  At first, you start out thinking there must be a million things that occupy your mind and you’ll never be able to meditate.  Over time, you can sit, even for just a few minutes at a time, but you may recognize that there are some categories of thoughts that seem to appear, or categories of emotions that seem to pop up.

Giving our attention to the actual content of each distraction – the actual thoughts and feelings we are thinking about –is really not important after awhile.  Just noticing that we are distracted is what is key.  These thoughts may seem important, but really, they are all just distractions.  For the purposes of meditating, there is our mantra, and there are thoughts about things that are not our mantra.  That’s it.
So lately, while noticing these thoughts and feelings that are all simply not my mantra, I am also seeing that my mind is constantly looking for a problem to solve.  In fact, all of the examples I just listed about the kinds of mental distractions we have are really all the same – they are problems that my mind wants to resolve.  That’s what my mind wants to be doing.  Either there is something that might be coming up in the future that I want to work out, or something that happened in the past that I want to resolve differently.   All of these distractions are the same – mental problems where I want something to be different than what actually is right now.

That’s my brain at work.  Just doing what it does, like a toaster makes toast.  And that got me curious…is this just my brain at work, or do other people have similar experiences?

When I have questions like this, I like to see see if any of my teachers or favorite spiritual leaders had anything to say on this.  As it turns out, Jiddu Krishamurti, an amazing philosopher in the 20th century, has an interesting perspective on this.  Here’s what Krishmurti observed…

…From childhood we are trained to have problems. When we are sent to school, we have to learn how to write, how to read, and all the rest of it. How to write becomes a problem to the child. Please follow this carefully. Mathematics becomes a problem, history becomes a problem, as does chemistry. So the child is educated, from childhood, to live with problems—the problem of God, problem of a dozen things. So our brains are conditioned, trained, educated to live with problems. From childhood we have done this. What happens when a brain is educated in problems? It can never solve problems; it can only create more problems. When a brain that is trained to have problems, and to live with problems, solves one problem, in the very solution of that problem, it creates more problems. From childhood we are trained, educated to live with problems and, therefore, being centred in problems, we can never solve any problem completely. It is only the free brain that is not conditioned to problems that can solve problems. It is one of our constant burdens to have problems all the time. Therefore our brains are never quiet, free to observe, to look. So we are asking: Is it possible not to have a single problem but to face problems? But to understand those problems, and to totally resolve them, the brain must be free.
That Benediction is Where You Are

Krishnamurti even had some advice for all of us for tackling these ‘problems’ so I wanted to share that as well…

…The answer is in the problem, not away from the problem. I go through the searching, analyzing, dissecting process, in order to escape from the problem. But, if I do not escape from the problem and try to look at the problem without any fear or anxiety, if I merely look at the problem—mathematical, political, religious, or any other—and  not look to an answer, then the problem will begin to tell me. Surely, this is what happens. We go through this process and eventually throw it aside because there is no way out of it. So, why can’t we start right from the beginning, that is, not seek an answer to a problem?—which is extremely arduous, isn’t it? Because, the more I understand the problem, the more significance there is in it. To understand, I must approach it quietly, not impose on the problem my ideas, my feelings of like and dislike. Then the problem will reveal its significance.    Why is it not possible to have tranquility of the mind right from the beginning?  The Collected Works Volume V

Kind of reminds me about something Einstein once said… “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
So how about you?  What have you noticed about your distractions and thoughts that pop into your brain when you are meditating?