Like thoughts, annoyances and distractions are integral part of our meditation and we should not see that as failures. They are called weeds. They bother us all the time at different degrees and intervals. Your mind hates meditation and it is fighting back by sawing its weeds. They will break your concentration, make you restless, upset you, and discourage you. Here is a very short list of mental weeds affecting all of us.
You have experienced some of them or they will since they will never disappear.
Good question but this question is a mind spam! Don’t click on it by trying to judge your meditation or you will loose everything! Assessing the quality of our meditation is the most efficient way…. to quit; more than 80% of beginners do so after few weeks!
Meditation is simple but quite demanding and very difficult. (I’m judging :))
Controlling thoughts has nothing to do with their number -they always appear- but how you become aware of them in a mindful way*. Once you are mindful to them and only then you can deleting them and go back to your anchor of choice. Focusing on your anchor or focusing on your incoming thoughts before going back to the anchor are BOTH mind control practice.
So: you assess your meditation not on its quality per se – always never good enough – but on its impacts on the quality of your day-to-day life that is, for example, how you react emotionally to someone, something, your own feelings and you are mindful to what you are doing, where you are, etc.
Zen is teaching us that when we are facing a problem in our life it originates more often from our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, expectations and desires rather than from the outside world. Most problems come from our self-centered mind that we call our shadow.
Kneading clay to make a beautiful and useful pot is hard work, patience, determination, skill and experience but it’s only the “nothing inside” this pot that gives us the use of the vessel.
SO WHAT!…. you may ask.
Open up your mind and empty it – somewhat – by dropping some of your cherish opinions, values, judgments and expectations. Only after this you will be able to create this “nothing inside” and use it as……an anti-stress weapon.
It is not easy but soon you will realize that your mind become quieter and more receptive. You will be able to carry your life and deal with your problems in a far more efficient way than you think.
The purpose of this talk is to share with you the Zen perspective and not to convince you.
What is a restless mind?
Zen uses a colorful language to describe our mind and how we are slave to it: “monkey mind”, “thinking zombies”, “day sleepwalking”, “non-stop talking”, and “wild horse mind”. Our mind is a non-stop talkative machine on autopilot. It is estimated that our 100 billions neurons and their trillion of trillion connections produce over 50,000 thoughts every day including feelings. Only a tiny fraction of our thoughts are needed to make decisions. The rest is pure unsolicited backroom noise trapping us 24/7. This is the restless mind and we are its victims. Our mind is a fantastic tool but we are at the same time its slaves.
The purpose of the following is simply to present the Zen perspective and not to convince.
Desire, anger and illusions are our main poisons. Among our emotions such as guilt, fear, resentment, doubt, confusion and jealousy anger is probably our most common one. “Being angry” does not mean I am “this anger”. Anger is not you or I or anybody else. Being anger means to have and to carry it. You can apply this important distinction for many of your emotions.
“No one makes us angry, we make ourselves angry. The trigger of anger is the match and the fire is ourselves. That we like it or not anger is a strong self defense reaction which can go overboard if not dealt in a mindful way that is …without emotion ”.
Therefore it is wise to deal first with ourselves and then with its outside trigger.
Dealing with anger is something like dealing with the flu:
When we catch a flu virus we accept it. Since there is no proper cure against it there is no point to fight against it. A similar approach can be applied with your anger.