zen and mindfulness: mind waves


This is the fourth 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.

The first chapter I ever truly enjoyed in this book was the chapter on mind waves and the need to let thoughts dissipate rather than trying to force them out. It’s a chapter I read easily a few times a year.

Think of your mind as a body of water and your thoughts as rocks that are thrown into the body of water. When you perceive your mind as “small,” then your mind is like a puddle and spills over catastrophically when a rock of any size is dropped in. When you perceive your mind as big mind, your mind is like an ocean. Any rock short of the size of an asteroid is unlikely to significantly move the ocean. The wave will quickly dissipate.

The difference in whether you perceive your mind as big mind or little mind, then, is the amount which you allow thoughts to dissipate. You can think of this as correlation, not causation (this is potentially very tricky philosophically).

How then, do you allow thoughts to dissipate? By simply letting them go. When you expend new effort to try and shove thoughts out of your mind, it causes agitation and this leads to more disturbance in your mind. This leads to perception of your mind as small mind.

When you see a thought you don’t like, you shouldn’ let it bother you. The more you simply let it go (and it will go, eventually), the bigger your mind will be perceived.

I say that you perceive your mind as big or little because it is something totally subjective. There is nothing new you have to grow or anything like that to have big mind. It is always there. However, sometimes you don’t perceive it as there because of the work of the ego. It’s not that it is lost. You simply do not perceive it.

This can be extended all the way out to “Buddha Mind” or other names for the concept. An asteroid can disturb an ocean, but nothing can disturb a body the size of the universe. If your mind is expanded as far as that—which is possible, as the Buddha showed—then you have an infinite mind. Not just big, infinite. This infinite container is an oxymoron, but then you cannot really discus this directly. Very few people reach this state. I don’t anticipate reaching this state in my lifetime, so maybe I am totally wrong. This is just an image I have that I thought I would share.

Related posts:

  1. zen and mindfulness: control
  2. mindfulness basics: dealing with distractions
  3. zen and mindfulness: breathing
  4. zen and mindfulness: posture
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