Ooh, ooh! I wrote a Zen koan blog post title. And I don't even practice Zen.
How does one control the mind? By letting the mind do whatever it wants.
This could be the key to... everything! Or maybe... nothing. Which could be the same thing.
Since, I've done Andy Puddicombe's guided meditation thing every morning. I've worked my way into Day 28 of the Self-Esteem series, which involves 20-minute meditations that get increasingly silent and on-your-own'ish as Andy does less verbal guiding.
At several points in each session he says something like he wrote here:
Just allow the mind to be free. Without any sense of control or effort, just let it do whatever it wants to do.
This reminds me of a tweet by _2020mojo_ I came across today in my Twitter feed.
Clinging to "letting go".
During most of the guided meditation sessions, I'm doing something or other.
Feeling my bodily presence. Following my breath. Scanning through my body from head to toe, becoming aware of sensations. Counting breaths. Returning to present moment awareness when my attention wanders.
All this is pleasingly relaxing. But there's some effort involved, even in letting go.
However, I've found that when Puddicombe says, "Now, just let your mind do whatever it wants," my mind doesn't want to do anything.
Well, at least not much of anything; less than what it wanted to do before, when I was trying to be mindful and not be captured by thoughts.
A bit of Googling led me to someone else who had the same Headspace experience.
With the aim of ‘demystifying meditation’, Headspace cuts through all the usual myths – that there’s not enough time, it’s impossible to stop thoughts etc. The focus is on the concept of short periods of mindfulness – simply becoming aware of your own thoughts and feelings – rather than having to shut your mind off in any way.
At one point in the meditation, Andy instructs you to let go of any focus and ‘let your mind do whatever it wants to do’, and bizarrely it’s at this point that my hyperactive mind stops trying to leap and vault into a thousand different thoughts at once, and can’t seem to think about anything at all. I’m positively blank, and perhaps that’s the point.
Alan Watts speaks similarly in his books. Our attempts to control ourselves lead us into a bizarre mental maze where "I" try to make "me" do something, even though we're the same entity.
Even more strange is when I try to make me do nothing -- to be calm, relaxed, mentally motionless. Trying to let go of tension and effort introduces, duh..., a bit of tension and effort.
So when Puddicombe says "Let your mind do whatever it wants to do," I'm thrown into an intriguing state of mind. I can think, or not think. I can imagine, or not imagine. I can worry, or not worry.
Somehow that or, that freedom, brings me to a difficult-to-describe sense of peace. I'm more peaceful when I'm not trying to be peaceful.
The same principle probably applies to other areas of life.
Likely I'm more moral when I don't try to be moralistic. Likely I'm a better dancer when I don't try to be a good dancer. Likely I'm more humble when I don't try to lose my ego.
But I don't want to think too much about this. Likely this will be a better blog post if I don't try to improve it any more.