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.
What is a rested mind?
A true rested mind does not exist unless we are dead. Also it is not a sleeping mind or an empty mind.
A rested mind is a controlled mind. A controlled mind is a mind with a reduced flow of thoughts. It can be achieved only if we force it to focus. Focusing creates a fennel effect. In a rested mind the decibel level of its backroom noise is reduced but never to the mute mode. In summary a restless mind is multi-tasking (ongoing multi thoughts) whereas a rested mind is monotasking (focusing on one thing at a time).
How to rest my mind? You can do it in 3 steps
Forcing your mind to focus or to anchor on something is by itself a thought. Focusing produces 3 effects:
- It reduces the amount of thoughts production since our mind/brain cannot deal with 2 thoughts at the same time
- This slowing down allows us to be aware of each incoming thought / feeling and
- Being aware of our thoughts is the only way to control them.
Therefore focusing is the only way to control the mind and make it quieter. You can tame a wild horse using a lasso. You can tame the mind using formal mindfulness meditation. During formal meditation we use a powerful mind anchor to reduce the amount of thoughts production and to make these thoughts more manageable. The focusing / mindfulness anchors used during formal meditation are:
- Our breathing (exhale) or any other anchor of your choice.
- Our body posture and
- Our incoming thoughts are observed then deleted one by one with return to the main anchor such as breathing. Remember. Our thoughts cannot be managed unless we are aware of them first.
Meditation = Focusing the mind = Controlling the mind. Controlled mind = Rested mind
OK but can I learn to rest my mind outside my formal meditation?
Yes. Once a while during the day you can break the tsunami of thoughts by practicing mindfulness exercise which can be summarized as “Paying attention to the current moment…to something”. Using sort of mini meditation you may focus for 30sec. or more on:
- Your body: breathing, heart beats, body scanning, what you are doing: walking, eating, reading, etc.
- Your mind: current thought, emotional state, visualization, etc.
- The environment using your 5 senses: where you are: car, home, outside, etc.
- Bringing your mind to the present moment where your body is. This is one of the best approaches.
Being mindful slows down the flow of our thoughts forcing our mind to cool down. Instead of jumping from one branch to the next continuously our monkey mind seats on one of them for a moment. This is a rested mind.
More info on “mini meditation”: http://www.mindfulnesszenmeditation.ca/zen-mini-meditation/. For a complete list of Dharma talks (Zen teaching) http://www.mindfulnesszenmeditation.ca/category/zen-keys/: list of subjects (posts) on the right.
Thank you. Ven. Ji Gong Sunim Nov. 2015