With all the concerns in modern life, we expend immense amounts of energy on so many daily activities, work, relationships and hobbies. How many moments do we stop to analyze how we are using our own mind, where and how are we using our mental energies? For most of us, it is very difficult to even be aware of what our mind is doing; we simply need to take actions and get things done in our daily lives. Which is to say, that we are mostly working on autopilot or daydreaming most of our lives without seeing what our mind is actually doing moment-to-moment.
The mind is like a bad dog, it needs to be trained, it needs to be on a short leash and made to heal constantly. Once we let the dog off the leash it runs around pooping in other people’s yards, biting and barking at others and sometimes worse. Dogs aren’t bad animals, but they need to be trained properly by their owners – just like minds. Dogs can perform many useful tasks like leading the blind, finding lost people, herding animals and pulling sleds but they can’t do those things without training. A mind cannot be useful without training either, yet how many of us allow our minds to run around the mental landscape freely, doing as they please? How many people even believe that their mind needs training outside of their professional field and academics in general?
Dogs do not tire easily of fetching balls, neither does the mind of subtlety drawing one into an explosion of ignorant thoughts. Thinking that seeks to understand the clear working of the mind and sense impressions, as well as how to be more compassionate, truthful and seek justice for others, are useful and good thoughts. Random thoughts arising and causing rumination are the source of ignorant actions. Dogs are pack animals and tend to run with other dogs, doing what the other dogs in the pack do, just like human minds. Without constant vigilant awareness the mind will join in with others to fault find, think up doubts, criticize others, boast of one’s own virtuousness, envy what others have, judge others, talk about subjects that promote ignorance, and generally talk about likes and dislikes. All of these things are the result of an untrained mind getting off leash.
How do we keep the dog on leash, how do we train the mind? In reality, the world wisdom traditions came up with the solution a long time ago and have been saying the same thing over for millennia. However, when people hear the answer they generally agree, but when they attempt the solution (meditation) they find it difficult if not impossible and eventually give up. The dog doesn’t want to be put on leash, the dog wants to fetch random thoughts. The mind will twist, turn and roll around to avoid its training; this is why the beginning stages of formal meditation are so difficult. The mind is comfortable and addicted to being the way it has always been, it is much like the process of withdrawal symptoms of an addict. The body becomes uncomfortable, even painful and the mind becomes extremely agitated searching for anything to think about, creating fantasies, reveries, thinking up suspicions and ideas for future exploration or memories to ruminate on. All of this should be an indicator to those beginning meditation that the mind is in need of deep training in order to get it under control. Random thoughts of the mind are leading one around at will, rather than the owner leading the mind around.
If we ignore what we have learned in meditation, by giving up and saying meditation is too difficult then we are allowing unconscious forces that are out of control, like a bad dog, to run our life. In essence, if we ignore the situation we are agreeing to allow unseen and untrained mental forces to influence our life. Such that, a belligerent, out of control, childish, emotional rollercoaster-of-a-wild-animal gets to influence our most intimate life decisions.
The bad doggie needs to learn to sit.
Many people think that when they first start sitting to meditate that meditation is about some amazing experience they will have mentally/spiritually. Really, the amazing thing that begins to happen after meditating for some time is that one becomes so aware of each thought and physical condition in the body that not being mindful in regular life would almost be impossible. Seeing random thoughts, especially negative patterns (criticism, impatience, anger, sadness, jealousy and so on) derails these influences and keeps the dog off leash.
People love their dogs like children. Like children, it’s difficult to see when they are acting badly, but it’s always easy to see when someone else’s dog is being naughty. Before we can keep the dog in our own yard and out of other people’s business we need to recognize that we have a bad dog. Keeping our attention inside the house (meditation) can help us see what a mess our doggie is making.
Dan Martin has a masters degree in psychology and runs Afloat floatation therapy in Bellingham WA: www.afloattherapy.com He also writes about consciousness, spirituality and society at: transitionofheart.wordpress.com