The Runaway Mind: It all began with just a single thought...

July 31, 2012

The Runaway Mind: It all began with just a single thought...

It all began with just a single thought, but then it always does...

A western man went to visit a Buddhist monastery for the day. He really wanted to give meditation a go, but had never actually tried before. So, after making some enquiries he was shown into the temple and left to find a seat. Not wanting to be right at the back, he walked a little further into the room so that he was sat somewhere in the middle, just behind the monks and nuns.

Almost immediately a loud gong rang out which, looking around at the other people in the hall, appeared to signify the beginning of the meditation session. Having shuffled around a little to try and get comfortable (he wasn’t used to sitting on the floor), he closed his eyes and began. Now, he knew that he was supposed to focus on his breath, but he didn’t really know much more than that. He wasn’t really that bothered though...after all, how hard can it be to just follow the breath?

To begin with he sat very still and tried hard to follow the rising and falling sensation. But no matter how hard he tried, his mind kept wandering off. After a little while, he thought “I can’t do this”, followed soon after by “this isn’t working”. Unfortunately he didn’t realise these were just passing thoughts, so he believed them, he identified with them, he made them real, something more than thoughts, and started to invest a huge amount of energy to these ideas.

Before long, his mind was full of these thoughts and he started to feel increasingly anxious, impatient and frustrated, just waiting for the end of the session. In fact after a while he was so caught up in these thoughts that he’d unintentionally abandoned the breath altogether and was instead feeding the internal dialogue... “when’s it going to end, when’s it going to end, when’s it going to end?”

Eventually he reached breaking point. He was no longer conscious of the separation between thought and observer. He ‘became’ his thoughts. Desperate, unable to contain himself for a moment longer and without even being conscious of doing so, he jumped up from his seat in the middle of the temple and screamed out at the top of his voice “I can’t fucking do this anymore!”. In a twist of cruel irony, this was immediately followed by the sound of the gong, signifying the end of the hour and the end of the session.

And it all began with just a single thought, but then it always does...

(You’ll find this story and many more like it my first book, Get Some Headspace)

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