31 July 2012

Thich Nhat Hanh and having a peaceful mind

While I was at University I attended a few - maybe three - free meditation classes. I was blown away by how I felt afterwards. It was like someone had given me the most amazing drug! I was blissfully calm, and everything seemed more beautiful, friendly and clear. It is incredible that your own mind can make you feel that way.

I haven't been very successful at following up on it, but occasionally I get there in the lie-down at the end of a yoga class. Other times I go to sleep or mentally explore something that I really don't need to. The strange thing is how it feels like it's so important to think!

I remember a girl saying that in a meditation class. She said that it felt as though she didn't have enough spare time to not think: it felt like an urgent thing to do. We were at Oxford University and it definitely felt as though you had to keep your brain burning with something approaching brilliance at least most of the time, or you were toast! The teacher assured her that it was just an illusion and she would be much better off not thinking for a little while. Even if you only manage a few seconds of a still mind, it is worth it, she said.

Recently I've been reading books by Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh (after three books I still have to look up his name!). I started with the Dalai Lama, but Thich - if I may call him that - seems to write more briefly and simply.

This is what it says in Walking Meditation, which he co-authored with Nguyen Anh-Huong: Meditation is stopping - stopping being carried away by regrets, anger, worries about the future. Stopping the turmoil - good or bad - that usually goes on in our minds (actually this sentence is my words).

Breathing is the place to start. Our breath can feel like a pillow; we can rest our mind on it. It feels nice. If our minds rest on our breath, a feeling of calm and ease arises.

With the in-breath, let the thoughts move down to your belly and rest there. With the out-breath, feel softened and cleansed.

That's not even the end of chapter one and it's about the depth of my experience so far! Wish me luck!

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