Friday, January 30, 2015
A QUIET MIND IS ALL THAT MATTERS
What is the most common trouble afflicting the minds of ordinary people? In my years of counselling others, it is this---a troubled and unsettled mind.
Now, a mind can be troubled for many reasons. In some cases, there is an underlying mental illness or mental disorder, and that ordinarily requires the assistance of a health care professional (for example, a psychiatrist or psychologist). However, in my experience a mind that is otherwise free from mental illness or mental disorder is troubled and unsettled because it is no longer quiet.
Here are some of my favourite quotations on the importance of a quiet mind:
‘... in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength …’ - Isaiah 30:15.
‘Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.’ - Jesus (Mark 4:39).
‘The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.’ - Ram Dass.
‘Let your mind become clear like a still forest pool.
If you let cloudy water settle, it will become clear.
If you let your upset mind settle, your course will also become clear.
If you take care of each moment, you will take care of all time.’ - Shakyamuni Buddha.
One of my spiritual mentors was the late Dr Norman Vincent Peale. He helped millions of troubled people in his long lifetime. He gave some wonderful advice on how to still the mind and the body. He often said that you cannot still the mind until the body has become still. First, still--- that is, relax---the body, and then the mind will follow. Dr Peale wrote, ‘Sit still, be silent, let composure creep over you.’
Botanic garden in the centre of the city of Nantes, France.
(Photo taken by the author.)
There, my friends, you have some wonderful and very practical advice---psycho-spiritual wisdom at its very best. Sit still. No matter how troubled you may be, just sit still. Then, be silent. Say nothing. If thoughts come into your mind---and they will---just watch them. Observe them. Don’t dwell upon them or resist them, and don’t judge or analyse them. Thoughts (which give rise to the illusory sense of there being a 'psychological "I"') are autonomously generated by your mind as a result of your conditioning, which is the past. Thoughts are not you, the person (that is, the 'physical "I", which is ontologically real) that in truth you are. Just let the thoughts pass away---and they will indeed pass away provided you ... let them be. No matter how many thoughts enter your mind, just let them be. And, as Dr Peale said, ‘let composure creep over you.’
What wonderful words---‘let composure creep over you.’ The word ‘creep,’ as a verb, suggests a gradual, progressive and almost imperceptible process. The achievement of composure will take some time, but it will happen---if you let it happen. Don’t try to force it to happen, for if you do composure will not occur. The Buddha’s words quoted above stress the importance of ‘letting be.’ He is reported as having said, ‘If you let your upset mind settle, your course will also become clear’ [emphasis added].
Say to yourself, many times over, ‘Peace, be still.’ Those very words are calming in themselves, and when said quietly and meaningfully to yourself, they will help your body, and then your mind, to relax and become still.
‘Be still, and know …’ (Ps 46:10). They are wonderful words, especially the first two. Be still. You see, there is really nothing to do. Just---be still. Start with the body, and the mind will become still as well.
Be still. Be silent. And let composure creep over you.