We Meditate to Explore the Mind, NOT Empty It

I have had a number of people tell me recently that they can’t meditate because they can’t empty their mind. Fortunately you can meditate and benefit from meditating without emptying your mind. (Personally I think that emptying the mind is useless or worse.)

Our mind does a lot of wonderful things for us, and it also does things that are not so helpful. Instead of emptying the mind, meditation allows us to explore our mind and cultivate helpful processes so our mind does more helpful things and fewer unhelpful things.

The following meditation is a brief introduction to this idea of exploring the mind.

Think of a garden. If the garden is full of weeds, then it is not very helpful. However, emptying the garden is not helpful either. We need to cultivate the garden, making the environment more conducive to growing flowers, fruits and vegetables and caring for those plants.

Meditation enables us to tend our mind like a garden. In the garden of the mind, attention is like light and water. The mental qualities we pay attention to grow. We reduce the unhelpful mental qualities by giving attention to their antidotes. As we give the helpful mental qualities more attention they grow stronger, crowding out the unhelpful ones.

For example, if my mind is impatient and I want to become more patient, I need to pay attention to the times I was patient, and explore those to understand how I was able to be patient in those situations. Then I can use that understanding to explore how I could have been more patient in situations where that would have been helpful. Note that we can do this kind of meditation in lots of ways, not just sitting with our eyes closed.

 

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