Monday, August 30, 2010

Day Eleven {Meditation Challenge}: Training the Puppy

If the wind just brought you by today, we've been enjoying fourteen days of meditation practice together.  I hope you'll join us!  

Today on my pillow, I felt a little distracted.  Between the blue-jays, my daughter's music, the neighbor's dog, and my own mind, my inner world felt a little like the inside of a circus tent.  More than once, I felt myself becoming frustrated.  Then, the wind would blow and the touch of that breeze on my cheeks would remind me to focus on my breath and hold myself in compassion.

Training the mind is a bit like training a puppy.  The nature of the puppy is to explore and get into mischief.  We can't deny the puppy's nature -- and getting mad at it certainly doesn't help the puppy learn.  All we can do is practice with the puppy, be gentle with the puppy, and when the puppy wanders, we just bring it back.  We have to hold the puppy in compassion.

There are two methods of working with puppy-mind that I've found helpful.  The first is counting with my breath.  Breathe normally and feel your breath in your nostrils.  Inhale, exhale, count "one."  Inhale, exhale, count "two."  Keep counting through ten and then start over at one.  I've found that my mind can wander WHILE I'm counting.  On plenty of occasions, I've found myself at "twenty-one, twenty-two..." before I realize that my mind is wandering!  If this happens to you, just smile at the puppy and bring it back to sitting.

The second puppy-mind practice I like is naming my thoughts.  I'll either give them general labels like "planning," "worrying," "relationships," -- or more specific labels like, "lesson plans," "piano practice," "menu-planning," etc.  While both methods help focus the mind, the second method has a wonderful by-product.  In time, you'll begin to know yourself very well and the work you need to do will become clear.

There is no one "right way" to meditate.  Just the intention of quieting the mind will help bring more mindful awareness into your day.  In time, the puppy learns to sit.  The best we can do is to honor its nature and hold the puppy in compassion. 
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