Perfect Calmness

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If you want to obtain perfect calmness you should not be bothered by the various images you find in your mind. Let them come, and let them go. Then they will be under control.

-Shunryu Suzuki

 

Whether we struggle to calm our mind during meditation, during a heated conversation, or even as we go about our day, we have probably all dealt with the presence of unwanted mental chatter. All too often we stress about these unwanted thoughts or feelings. We don’t like where they take us mentally or how they make us feel. So, we distract ourselves with positive thoughts, gratitude lists or physical exercise. And, while I’m all in favor of gratitude lists and exercise, these tactics are ephemeral.

Shunryu Suzuki offers another approach. What if we let these images, thoughts and feelings be? Like clouds passing overhead, our thoughts come and go. It’s our attachment—our clinging and rejection—that is the cause of our suffering, not the thoughts themselves. Maybe, rather than trying to rid ourselves of mind chatter, we could practice non-judgmental awareness.

A practice often used is one where we see our thoughts and feelings as scenes in a movie. Rather than getting entangled with our thoughts, we sit back and observe the contents of our mind, and gradually—with practice—we become better equipped to distance ourselves from the images in our mind. This is what Shunryu Suzuki means when he says that “they will be under control.” It’s not that we are controlling the feelings, but rather they have lost their control over us. We remain passionate and intellectual–filled with vim and vigor, but find an inner calm that can weather life’s inevitable storms.

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