Episode 178 - White Belt Mind
The Thursday Thesis - 21/11/2019
It is said that when one begins the journey into Buddhism the hardest thing to do is to clear one’s mind: to achieve Shoshin – the so-called Beginner’s Mind.
Shoshin is an empty mind; no preconceptions and open to anything when studying a subject. And it is a mind without place-markers for meaning or a frame of reference the initiate can easily feel lost and disoriented.
In meditation we should try to simply be: to quiet the seemingly incessant chatter of our “Monkey Mind” which is our usual waking state – unsettled, restless, capricious, whimsical, fanciful and inconstant; confused, indecisive and almost completely uncontrollable.
Monkey Mind's thoughts rise up inside us, capture and fixate our attention, then fade into darkness like fireworks in the night.
The aim is to simply empty one’s mind and notice what comes and goes, without reacting or judging, usually by paying attention to one’s breath and the flow of air into and out of the body; to observe our Monkey Mind thoughts rise, subside and fade, only to be replaced by more thoughts, which – in turn – also pass and are replaced, endlessly and continuously.
All that Monkey Mind sounds pretty tiring to me.
In Beginner’s Mind we accept that we know nothing – because we are beginners (the clue is in the name).
When newcomers to the guitar come for their first lesson the biggest problem is that they already know that learning to play guitar will be difficult, that they have no talent, no rhythm, that there are no musicians in their family, etc, etc, etc. Their Monkey Mind has been yapping away for years – often decades – based on knowing bugger-all about playing guitar!
Yep, based on no knowledge of the instrument they (we, really – because I used to “know” how hard it was to play guitar, too) have convinced themselves of a whole bunch of unhelpful things, so the very first (and most important) thing in the lesson will be the systematic elimination of those beliefs – to engender their Beginner’s Mind and to clear away their unfounded certainty.
Subduing Monkey Mind takes time and...
Not effort, but attention.
Once you become aware of Monkey Mind and simply notice its prattle, you can let it talk and talk – allow it to rage and rail, worry and fret – notice that thoughts rise and subside, endlessly forming and drifting away. You come to realise that most of it is just nonsense and, over time, become less attached to your thoughts and reactions: the mind clears and empties itself.
We can come to understand that we know nothing and in so doing begin to learn the first lesson. The lesson is that it’s not what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know damned well and that isn’t true that hurts you.
Your Monkey Mind dances with untruth, worry and your own fears turned back in on yourself, and by stilling that Monkey chatter you can open up your mind to learning.
The first step to learning to play the guitar - or anything else for that matter - is to clear away the untrue, the second is to acquire the true.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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