The Pond and the Mind: A Parallel Universe

When you watch the mind, you will find there is a beginning, middle and an end to each troublesome thought or emotion. Sometimes before you even get to the end of it, the mind will jump onto something else.

The pond was still. Rocks and pebbles rested harmoniously at the bottom. Small fish swam around lazily. Trees were reflected sharply on the mirror-like surface. All was tranquil, but not for long.

Ducks and gulls swooped down, gliding, diving, flapping on the pond, creating ripples, one circle after another. The once-still reflection of the trees became fuzzy and jagged until their shape could no longer be discerned. As the ripples moved towards the bank, they gradually faded away.

As with the pond, so with the mind. When something comes into contact with the untrained mind - be it sight, sound, sensation, thought, emotion - it trembles, shakes, wavers, ruffles. The mind becomes dark, cloudy; our thoughts and judgement are marred by the mind's commotion; our reaction and manner reflect what is bubbling beneath. The mind's ripples can last for a short time or much longer, if we unwittingly or, through lack of awareness, hold on to them and are unable to let go of them naturally.

Perceived stress and worry stem from the movement of the mind. One thought or feeling can instigate ripples, sending the mind round and round in circles without knowing when or how to stop. Instead of taking time to understand the cause, we often opt for a quick fix to treat the symptoms. We distract the mind from worries, sadness and anger with more entertaining activities. We learn nothing from the experience except for the pain that we keep. We cement that very pain to the long term memory each time we push a re-play thought button. Our wounds lie dormant, waiting to be triggered at the next available opportunity. Once the ripples settle, it is already too late. We have already lost our peace of mind.

Sometimes memories of long gone years, sadness and pain may resurface - just like fish swimming up to the surface of the pond, blowing bubbles. The mind can be moved by external as well as internal causes. The thoughts and emotions that arise will soon pass on their own accord. There is no need to reject, dump or hide them. Simply watch them come and go. Learn from them.

The ducks, gulls and fish have left the surface. The pond resumes its stillness. The reflection of the trees returns. If you try to take control of those ducks, gulls and fish, or organise them in a way that is pleasing to you, they will fight to get free. The pond of your mind inevitably becomes even more turbulent, dirty and muddy. You might find yourself tumbling into it.

The mind only indulges in thoughts and emotions that remain unresolved. And most of the unresolved emotional problems are not real problems at all: they are our thoughts that go round and round. When you watch the mind, you will find there is a beginning, middle and an end to each troublesome thought or emotion. Sometimes before you even get to the end of it, the mind will jump onto something else. When you look at thoughts and emotions often and long enough without any judgement, the mind soon becomes more familiar with them, provided no further thoughts are added to them, and they will disappear naturally. Like anything that is too mundane and predictable, one tends to lose interest in it. Similarly, the mind will dwell less and less on the predictable thoughts and emotions. The mind lets go because it understands!

A lesson learnt leads to a change in perception and behaviour. This means that we do not make the same mistake again by getting caught in the past, imprisoning our mind, and being unable to move on. We become less troubled by our thoughts and emotions. If not, we ain't learnt nothing yet! This needs practice and training. You need to be mindfully aware that you are thinking or feeling as each thought or emotion arises. A lack of awareness and you are likely to get lost, immersed, and find yourself drowning in them.

Sometimes it's not just ducks, gulls and fish that cause a ripple. A gentle breeze, a falling feather or a raindrop can do likewise, but to a lesser degree. Our task is to mindfully watch, understand and let the pond of our mind naturally return - to its tranquility.

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