I recently attended a silent retreat which culminated in reading a portion of seminal work by a well-known Buddhist teacher. This last session was optional, so I assumed that we were all interested in the contents…I was mistaken. We were all interested in spilling out the contents of our minds!
During the day, we had all respected the silence. There was no evidence of turmoil anywhere. Incense, natural daylight filtered through the windows and quiet permeated the meditation hall. When we assembled for the reading event, we could hear the rustle of books and the arranging of our belongings before the leader reminded us of the “etiquette” for the session. Well…we could not wait for the person whose turn was to read a few paragraphs, to make our statements. Our minds have had enough of the silence! At various times, the leader gently suggested breathing quietly for two minutes to no avail. The next paragraphs were followed by comments that veered to whatever one of us wanted to teach or say, as if we were reading ten or fifteen other books. We missed the powerful message available in the text we had originally chosen to share. Mercifully, some people closer to the exit started leaving, which left those of us further in to reflect on what happens when we allow the mind to run our lives, instead of playing a supporting role.
Spending time in silence is a technique meant to create space for us to observe how our minds work, so we can use the learning when we do not have the space to reflect and act on phenomena with total presence and in gentler ways. The painting above depicts a day in the meditation hall, when we have time to notice that as we hear noise, we want to assign meaning. We can see how we grasp unto thoughts which have no relevance at the moment, simply because we cannot act on them where we are. We watch the play and replay of situations that occurred in the past and are laden with emotions. We contemplate that we even add new emotions to what no longer exists. With nothing to do, we also indulge in the useless forecasting of events which are yet to manifest. The mind is always running. Its motor never runs out of fuel.
The ego continuously refills the mind with indiscriminate ranting, arguments, opinions and raves that have no basis on reality. At the end of the day of silence the group was forced to learn the greatest lesson; the mind is meant to serve us and not run our lives. When we could not hear the contents of the book we chose to read, we missed its nugget of wisdom; our inherent basic goodness.
There is in us a basic goodness we are born with, wrote the author, and from this basic goodness and with light heartedness and compassion we can resolve to use what we learned and notice when we are keeping ourselves from living in the reality we are in. Had we been present to the book’s message, we may have discovered a new idea to solve some of the conundrums we felt must be resolved on that day. We may have also discovered that what we wrestled with did not really exist outside of our minds. In The Sun Rises in the Evening, Osho says that if we just sit and write down, even for a few minutes whatever passes through our minds, we will understand and be surprised by what goes on inside of it. “It remains in the background”, he writes, “it is constantly there, it surrounds you like a cloud. With this cloud you cannot know reality; you cannot attain to spiritual perception…the cloud is not interested in you, remember it.” The people who quietly and sheepishly walked out into the fresh air in the early evening remembered it.
The Contents of My Mind is a 9” x 12” mixed media on paper. You can purchase it by clicking here and work with it as a tool to meditate and practice accepting and releasing the sound of the wind, the noise of the cars passing through, the flight of the birds, the busy bees, the now, the then and the waves of time passing you by. You can learn to be softer, to be grateful to your mind for working with you and enlist the help of the ego in putting forth the basic goodness that is in each of us. Or you can simply hang it in your favorite reading spot!
Have a great week everyone.