Inner stillness and the paradoxes of modern living.

How do we create inner stillness? You see movies of ”spiritual” people that look so calm in extremely precarious circumstance. We also have access to thousands of books on this subject from all religions, and certainly new age literature, blogs etc.

How do we find our way in this multitude of information?

The beginning step is to understand yourself better. When do you feel like you have an inner stillness in your life? For me, it’s when I am on my own in quietness, maybe writing or sitting on my meditation cushion. Sitting on my meditation cushion can calm my mind without closing my eyes.

Our brains are highly complex, but we all have certain similarities. For instance, we all breath and our breathing regulate our whole body. Hence we can slow our breathing down. We can learn to see the thoughts rise and fall. We don’t have to go after every thought that arises. If we utilize our body as a metaphor for our minds. Our arms can swing around as our thoughts do. We can tap one foot nervously or fiddle with something in our hands. Our Minds are no different, it will think of a thing that has no relevance at all. It just does not like being still.

And so, like the tapping foot, the mind has recurring thoughts that are just plain unhelpful. We can well stop these just like when we become aware of our tapping foot. Once we become more if an observer and not simply on autopilot, or for a better metaphor. We begin to steer the ship away from turbulent waters.

It starts only by noticing things about our minds. Minor things, like what is the first thing you think of when you are on your own and it is quiet? How is your breathing going when you have been busy? The simple analysis is a great way to start.

What to do then? Well, I work on things slowly. For instance, sitting on my meditation cushion at first was extremely difficult, physically and mentally. So, I started with five minutes. Being on my own in silence was tough as well. These days I can sit for an hour on my cushion in complete quiet. Besides, I spend hours in silence writing, reading and just thinking about and practising my spiritual practices. My thoughts are only as healthy as my spiritual practices. We all need to be the master, not let our minds run our lives unattended. Imagine a huge ship, and its captain always steering them into troubled waters. We don’t have to participate in a silly conversation or have our minds run into escapism through a variety of things from the media, to addictions.

We possess all we need to improve our thoughts. No need to go off to a guru or read endless books on how to improve. We all can change things slowly and simply. Reading should be enjoyed, not a frantic exercise of how to fix yourself. Positive thinking can also be a trap, because we can deny what is going on in our minds and avoid truths. We must face ourselves, then with work, positive thinking is naturally and arises. We cannot pretend to be confident it has to arise out of genuine spiritual growth.

I like to end with some wisdom From The Buddha on this ageless conundrum!

“If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, and crush him; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

“Now when a monk… attending to another theme… scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts… paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts… attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts… beating down, constraining and crushing his mind with his awareness… steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it and concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn’t think whatever thought he doesn’t. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and — through the right penetration of conceit — has made an end of suffering and stress.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

MN 20 PTS: M i 118

Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Relaxation of Thoughts

translated from the Pali by

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

© 1997–2013

I thoroughly enjoy writing and find it relaxing. I live in Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia.

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