Ancient cultures recognized the mind’s restless, unreliable nature. In India, the most common metaphor for the mind is the wild elephant, and in Buddhism, the mind is compared to a monkey peering out through the five senses. Monkeys are notoriously impulsive, liable to do anything without notice. To cope with the frustrating antics of the monkey mind, the vast majority of people try to tame it – but that method never works. The mind only becomes wilder when we try to control and confine it. The solution is counterintuitive: to experience peace and calm, we have to free the mind. When it is free, it settles down and becomes a channel for peace. In freedom, our thoughts and impulses flow in harmony with what is right and best for each of us.
How, then, can you set your mind free? The first step is understanding that your mind traps itself by spinning an elaborate story about who you are and what you believe, and then fiercely defends that story. Observing this human tendency, the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.” The most common story the mind tells is that you are your ego, a fixed “I” that is separate from the rest of the world. If you believe this story, it keeps you in bondage. The ego is limited, subject to fear, and consumed with the idea that it has to know what is going to happen in order to feel safe.
The truth is that we don’t know what is going to happen. Really feeling safe, peaceful, and content comes from experiencing your true self, which is pure spirit, unbounded in time and space. When you know the real you isn’t inside your head, you have been set free, like awareness itself. Embracing the wisdom of uncertainty not only frees you from the ego’s illusion of control, it puts you right in the middle of the joyful flow of cosmic creativity.
Meditation is one of the most powerful practices for awakening to your true self and the peace that lies within. In meditation, you go beyond the mind’s noisy chatter and chaos into inner quiet and expanded awareness. You begin to see that you are not your thoughts, emotions, and the stories you tell yourself. As you experience this silence on a regular basis, your mind begins to shift. Instead of being dominated by fear, guilt, and other forms of inner pain, it is dominated by a quiet, steady state. From this state blossoms a sense of wellbeing and a feeling that you are safe. If you remain on the path and keep experiencing inner silence, peace dawns and then joy and bliss.
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