As we continue building our Ark it is helpful to have some idea as to where we are and where we are going. Your mind is the navigation system for your Ark. Having it working properly is essential if you want to get anywhere. Unfortunately, many of us are overwhelmed by the excessive stimulus of our technological society. There is so much out there vying for our attention, it can be difficult to discern what is useful and what is merely distraction.
For many, the practice of meditation instills an ability to gain some control over the, often hectic, thought process of the mind, the success of which is usually in direct proportion to the amount of time actually spent in meditation. If you throw a handful of dirt into a glass of water and shake it up, you have a glass of muddy water. If you set the glass aside and allow things to settle, the dirt sinks to the bottom and the water becomes clear. This is the basic meditation process. The mind is the glass of water, the swirling dirt makes up the myriad thoughts we have filling our heads during every waking moment of every day, and meditation is setting the glass aside to allow the thoughts to settle. It's that simple.
Most of the time we spend our days listening to this nonstop monologue inside our heads. Do this, go there, buy that, eat this, look there, smell that, I like this, I hate that, she’s funny, he’s smart, I wonder if, etc. It never ends. From the moment we wake to the moment we go to sleep, the chatter continues unabated in our heads. On and on it jumps from subject to subject, idea to idea, emotion to emotion, and thought to thought like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, occasionally stopping to drink more fully of some idea or thought, and then off again. Sometimes, when it finally does stop on one subject it clamps onto it tightly, causing us to think continuously about it, processing the subject from every angle over and over until it borders on or becomes an obsession. We have all experienced this at some point when we have stressed about something so much that it seemed to consume us - maybe it was an unexpected money issue or a personal confrontation with someone. We can get so caught up in the worrying that even eating and sleeping become difficult. Our glass of water can get very muddy...as our Ark starts to drift off course.
Mind Like Water
In traditional martial arts the concept of Mind Like Water is used to define the state of perfect readiness in preparation for executing a response to any given situation. Imagine a pool of water. If you throw a pebble into the center of the pool, the water ripples out in a totally appropriate response in relation to the force and mass of the input. The water’s reaction is in exact proportion to the size of the pebble. If we toss a big rock into the pool, we get a large splash and bigger ripples. Each and every time the response is exactly as it should be, given what we throw into the pool. The water doesn’t overreact with a huge splash when a small pebble is thrown in. Nor does it under react with a small splash when a boulder is dropped into it. When applied, this concept can be very useful for anyone in the process of navigating through the distractions of daily life.
Water is shapeless. If you put water into a glass it becomes the glass. If you pour it into a bucket it becomes the bucket. It reacts to any situation just as it needs by following the path of least resistance. If you place a large rock in a mountain stream, the water will find a way to flow around the rock and continue on.
Mind Like Water is the process of mindful awareness. When our minds are full of thoughts and distractions, we have difficulty responding effectively to situations that come up. If we have too much stuff going on in our heads, we can miss opportunities or fall into difficult situations. On the other hand, if we are focused on the present moment, we are able to see our situation clearly and react in an appropriate and effective manner. We basically become ready for anything that life puts before us. In this way we are able to bring a sense of calmness and peace to our lives.
Training the mind to flow like water is done with meditation. Find a moment to sit and imagine a gently flowing stream. Breathe and stay present. If a thought comes into your mind, step back from it and visualise it as a leaf that falls to the stream and floats away. Stay with the breath. It is your link between your mind and body.
A peaceful mind is smoothly able to navigate the landscape of life with all its distractions, interactions and altercations. Then, all we need to do is determine where we are going.
Intention Mind: Manifesting Reality
Perfecting Ourselves contains some in-depth practices for training the mind.