Sunday, October 2, 2011


Have you ever tried to meditate or be peaceful, and wondered why your mind won't stay still and think of one thing? It insists on wandering around on its own path, and then gets stuck in some problem or other, endlessly running round in circles, either trying to find a solution, or replaying scenes and conversations, real or imagined. It tends to focus on the 'problem of the moment', whatever that might be. We would love to settle into calm, but it is often hard to keep the mind in check.

Imagine that your mind is a forest. Like a forest, the mind grows brambles everywhere initially. That is why, if you haven't done any 'forest maintenance' for a while, you get your legs tangled when you go for a walk through your mind. Do you remember, when you were younger, trying to get through difficult bits of forest? The undergrowth was so strong, that your legs got cut and dirty from all the effort, and sometimes you got stuck in a particular place, without a hope of extracting yourself easily!

Now imagine that you can make paths for yourself to walk on, with enough width for comfort, and enough light for pleasure and safety. How can we create such paths in the mind? Meditators know that much of this is a question of habit. You will notice, in forests and even jungles, that animals cut paths with sheer force of habit, along their favourite routes. The mind works in the same way, expecially your long term memory. Where you walk the most, you will wear a path. So be careful! If you are always wearing a path to your worries, and to difficulties, then guess what? That's where your thoughts will go when you release them - down the path of least resistance! If you want your mind, your very own forest, to have pleasant paths full of happiness, then you had better start the long job of creating habits and routines which help your long term memory to establish healthy paths.

Some things are not a question of habit, and we need more than this to make a good forest. Sometimes, a good forest manager will realise that something new needs to happen, a little landscaping, or a new path. At such times, special effort is made to clear the way and shape the future, so that everything flows well. It's the same with your mind: you are the manager, and you must decide where the new big paths must go. But here's a design tip: try to make life easy for yourself! Decide where the best landscapes are, the cleanest streams, the loveliest views - and build your path to them. You can even make a map of your own mind in case you forget where your best paths are. A quick way is to go onto the internet, and choose 10 pictures which inspire you for some reason - you don't have to know why… probably, they represent favourite thoughts. Then, print them out (no larger than 6 or 7 cm wide) and arrange them on the floor in a collage that seems to work for you. It's not a perfect method, but it will get you working with your mind to make some inspiring 'mental maps' or 'mental paths'. You will find your other thoughts will gather around them, like flowers around a flower bed, following your design.

I hope some of this helps with some ideas as to how to get some control over your thoughts. All the best meditators work on this day and night, but everyone can surely do a little work in their forest, and make some nice walks! It just takes a little time, dedication and discipline.