‘I cannot meditate, my mind is too busy’ I hear this statement over and over again when the subject of meditation comes up. While I understand the frustration that has led them to this conclusion and stop them from ever meditating again, I can also see that meditation is probably the bitter-sweet medicine that can guide their mind to rest. All that a busy mind during meditation demonstrates, is busy nervous system and the need to settle internal activities. As I wrote in the blog ‘yoga is for inflexible people’, we seem to think that we have to be good at something in order to practice it, not considering that it is practice itself that leads to its mastery.
The restful mind (let’s call it the default mind) can be likened to the fertile soil of a garden, ready and impatient to bear seeds – any seed – providing growth to whatever comes in: tree, bushes, flowers, vegetable and even weeds …The default state is spacious and full of potential. Thoughts, on the other hands, are the seeds that yearn to come alive and grow. They long to be thrown in the soil of the mind and have their potential actualised. They wait impatiently for the gardener’s hand (you).
A learned gardener knows the nature of the seeds and what they will grow to be. With this power of discrimination and choice, s/he can design a garden of paradise with breath taking beauty, exquisite views, scents where it is possible to truly rest. A less experienced gardener with less ability to discern, might end up with a place where no one can even walk about safely. As s/he continuously throws any seed, the space can become overgrown with plants that sting, cut and grow faster that can be maintained. The poor gardener, trying to achieve some order, overworks, gets exhausted and frustrated and yet, cannot even see that it is the lack of knowledge in the nature of the seeds that has led to this point.
Well, it’s not all doom and groom! Here is where meditation comes in. Meditation is like the magic wand that the gardener needs to bring the garden to its default spacious state. 20 minutes of meditation, sitting still will achieve what hours of overwhelming and demoralising efforts cannot. More can be achieved by stopping and doing absolutely nothing at all! Isn’t that good news? All that is required of the gardener is to sit still and watch. Of course s/he’ll see the garden’s current state (the busy mind) and, become aware of more seeds that want to be planted – some may even get planted – but he won’t worry about them. He will just watch: the unconscious planting, space, the sensations, space, more seeds being planted, space… Slowly and somehow miraculously more and more space is created. The gardener didn’t know that this soil (the mind) comes with a self correcting system that activates the moment the light of ‘watching’ comes on. The more he meditates and watches, the more manageable the soil/garden becomes until it becomes spacious enough for new experiments . Now he can consciously choose the seeds, watch how they grow and get to know them. With this new tool, he can always uproot unwanted growth, create more space and start again. This is how he learns to master his gardening skills and create a paradise within.
To all the gardeners out there who can’t sit still because there is literally no room in their garden and, however and wherever they sit, it can’t get comfortable. To all those gardeners (including myself) who, the moment they sit, the mind seems to get busier than ever: This is absolutely normal and OK. It doesn’t mean meditation isn’t working. It just means wait. In time, as the minutes grow and, with more and more sitting, more space will be granted…