zen and mindfulness: control


This is the third in a series of topics from the seminal book on Zen: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. I’m going chapter by chapter and offering my thoughts on the subject Suzuki addresses. You should definitely check out Suzuki’s book. It has changed many lives.

What’s the ultimate secret to controlling your mind? I don’t know, but I do know some ways to move you in that direction. The first is to stop trying to control your mind by brute force.

Still there?

You may have just thrown something in frustration if you’re a regular reader. I talk so much about renewal and then I say you shouldn’t try to control your mind. How do I reconcile those two things?

It all depends on what you mean by “control.” Typically, when we think of controlling we think of keeping something within relatively narrow confines. These narrow confines have to be strong because they will continually be tested by whatever is being controlled. This can be very problematic.

If you’ve ever seen the way a race track is set up for stock car racing, you see that it’s important for the barriers to have give. You don’t want to stop the cars cold, you just want to slow them down. If you stop them cold, disaster strikes.

Your mind makes a race car look impossibly slow.

This means the barriers you set up have to be very light and concentrate completely on slowing down slowly. In other words, you’ll need a lot of space to slow the mind down.

In other words, to complete the spatial metaphor, you need big mind.

The good news is you already have big mind. You’ve always had big mind. If you don’t feel as though you’re currently experiencing your big mind, then that’s a matter of the barriers you have up right now that need to be brought down.

To take these barriers down isn’t so different from the racecar metaphor earlier. Think of them instead as buildings. To take down a very strong building, you have two options. You can:

  1. Take it down in an orderly manner
  2. Blow it to bits

I’m going to go ahead and warn you that the second option is no fun. I suggest option 1.

How do you take down the barriers in your mind in an orderly manner? By practicing the meditation and mindfulness techniques human beings have been developing for centuries.

It’s a slow process, but if you keep renewing it, you will see results.

Related posts:

  1. zen and mindfulness: breathing
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