POSTCARD#442: Bangkok: Editor’s note: Say to yourself three times at the start of your meditation, “I’ll be aware of the present moment, and I’ll not go off into the past or the future.” Instructing the gatekeeper about the dangers as well as the goals, helps mindfulness do its task. When a gatecrasher appears, mindfulness knows, “This is not what I’m supposed to be doing.” Mindfulness then discards that thought or perception of the past or the future. Another factor needed for mindfulness is energy. You need energy at each stage, and that energy is aroused by putting everything you have into what you’re doing. Don’t keep anything back for the next moment. One of the mistakes that people make—especially with mental energy—is thinking, “If I put a lot of energy into this moment, I’ll have nothing left for the next moment.” It doesn’t work that way with the mind. The more energy you put into this moment, the more you have for the next. There is a limitless store of mental energy, and if you put a lot of energy into what you are doing right now, you’ll find that in the next moment, the next five minutes, or the next hour you’re really awake and alert. That’s why Ajahn Chah, my teacher, used to say that whatever you’re doing, put all your mind into it. Then you will build up energy. If, however, you think, “Oh, I don’t really need to put energy into this moment,” then you will become dull and won’t enjoy anything in life. When eating, put energy into every mindful mouthful. See how much you can notice. Then you’ll enjoy it more! The gatecrasher to mindfulness when you are eating is thinking about something else. Sometimes you don’t even know what you are putting into your mouth. No wonder so many people suffer from indigestion! Whatever it is that you are doing, know what you are doing, and energy will be aroused.
Turning Up the Lights
As you build up mindfulness and it gets sharper, you will realize that you are emerging from a world that has been very dim. As you get more and more mindful, it’s as if someone has turned on the lights in the room, or the sun has come out, illuminating the surroundings. You see so much more of what’s around you. It’s like shining a spotlight on reality, and you begin to see the subtle beauty of rich colors, delightful shapes, and deep textures. It all appears very beautiful and wonderful. When mindfulness becomes powerful, it generates not only insight but also bliss. When you have developed powerful mindfulness, it’s like going out into a beautiful garden in the brilliant sunshine. It’s energizing and inspiring. Possessing strong mindfulness, such brightness of mind, if you then focus it on a small part of the world, then you will see so deeply into its nature. The experience of bright and focused awareness is wonderful and amazing! You see much more beauty and truth than you ever imagined. So developing mindfulness is like turning up the lights of the mind. When you sustain mindfulness on one thing instead of letting it wander all over the place, mindfulness builds up its own energy. You begin to see into things very deeply and wonderfully.
Building Up the Muscles of Insight
Empowering mindfulness builds up the muscles of insight. Just take any object such as a leaf on a bush and sustain your attention on that one leaf. Let mindfulness become still until you see not just a green leaf but a whole world. Then you’ll understand the power of mindfulness. When you can sustain mindfulness on one thing, you will know how it illuminates and reveals the beauty in that object. It becomes fascinating just how much you can see, how much detail and color and texture there is in a tiny leaf! This is where mindfulness playfully engages with its object, seeing ever new insights into its nature. But if you start wondering about what you’re going to have for dinner, you stop seeing deeply into the leaf. Or if you start getting dull, or if you start worrying, “Are people looking at me? Do they think I’m a bit strange?”—then the spell of sustained attention will break. If you can sustain your attention on one thing, however, you’ll be amazed by what you see. If you develop attentive stillness, the ability to sustain mindfulness on one thing for long periods of time, then you will gain the ability to delve into something with insight and to see deeply into its nature. If you want to discover for yourself the deep truths of existence, not taking it on faith from the books or from teachers, then this is how you find out. This is how to achieve enlightenment experiences. You develop powerful mindfulness and point it at some interesting and rich source of wisdom—especially at the mind. If you can sustain attention on your mind and dive into it, you will find a treasure chest of priceless jewels that we call deep insight.
To summarize so far, this is the way of mindfulness: what it actually is, how to develop it and, in particular, how to set up mindfulness at every stage of your meditation. Give your gatekeeper clear instructions so that mindfulness knows what to do. Then sit back and watch this mind do its job.
That’s all you need to do.
Continued next week, Friday 29th October 2021