Getting a handle on the mind

To train the mind, first we have to get a handle on it. We are thinking all the time. If we observe that thinking process for a second, we’ll see that it is triggered by the five sense faculties: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. We smell something or we see something, and we’re distracted. It’s hard to train the mind by using just the five sense consciousnesses — just smelling or just tasting, for example. We need to get hold of the discursive mind itself, the consciousness of thoughts, memories, and dreams. It’s being pulled in a lot of different directions, so we need a technique to stabilize it.

Training the mind is dependent upon the body. We reduce the body’s activity to focus the mind, so posture is very important. Then we use the breath, which is stable and consistent, as a focus for our intention. Joining our mind with the breath in meditation is often compared to the horse and the rider. The horse is the breath and the rider is the mind. We want those elements to be in continual contact. We have to be pragmatic about our practice. The mind is powerful. After racing around all day, it’s hard to follow through with the intention, “I’m going to stabilize my mind for one whole hour.” Instead, at the beginning of our session, we take the attitude, “Now I am going to focus.” Focus will bring us to moments of stillness and deepening, which profoundly affect the mind.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

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