Have you ever come back from shopping with a lot more than you intended? Tempted by the sale, the colours, shape and taste of the products, you bag loads on a whim?! Some of those items, after second thoughts, you will return to the shops and get refunded. Some not. Hence you may be stuck with a bright pink handbag, stilettos that make your legs ache, your toes and heels blistered, or clothes that last only one season before becoming dated. This buying habit leaves a number of unused and useless items piling up in your wardrobes, looking sorry for themselves. Even more sorry may be your bank balance, heading into the red.
As with shopping, so too does the mind go wandering. The mind knows no better. When it goes out there, it picks up a number of experiences indiscriminately and brings them back to ponder on - particularly those from the long gone days that can never be changed. It also brings back worries about the future. Lost in the sensory experience - through the contact of, for examples, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue - the mind is unaware of what it is doing. It may feel satisfied for a moment and dissatisfied the next. Most of the time, it is restless. These feelings are energised by additional thoughts, created by the mind.
Often we try to put things we don't want out of sight. Clothes are dumped at the bottom of the wardrobe, thoughts shoved to the back of our mind. Every now and then, the overflowing content in the wardrobe pushes open the door and and the tucked away clothes come flooding out. Likewise for our thoughts. The clothes can be thrown back in or given away and indeed some thoughts can be brushed aside. But some remain unresolved. Persistent negative thoughts can keep nagging at us, particularly at the moment when we are trying to relax and enjoy ourselves.
An untrained mind is like a boat without a rudder, it floats aimlessly into the sea. It needs training and guidance - making it more water-wise. We need to develop mindfulness to guide the mind to stay on course. When shopping, a shopping list helps remind us of what we need and we can stick to it. Otherwise we can be wandering around the aisles, aimlessly, getting distracted and returning home without what we intended to buy.
Being mindful, you can still see the new arrivals on display in the shop, a must-have fashionable item that catches your eye. For a brief moment, you are distracted into thinking: what would I look like in it; which party or function should I wear it to; will I wow those who see me in it? You are already lost in the future. Or if the new fashion trend goes back to the 60s, your mind can dwell on the good or bad old days for longer - if there is no mindfulness or shopping list as a reminder for it to come back to the present.
When we start mindfulness practise, we label what we do, think, feel - according to what is actually happening. The labelled words help to anchor the mind to the present moment experience. The more mindful you are, the less likely will the mind proliferate. Eventually the labelled words will be discarded as the mind remains mindful and focused. This mindful state does not last, however. There are always new experiences, new circumstances. You need to apply mindfulness to all of them as you go along. And keep at it.
Next time your mind goes wandering or time-travels, you can be mindful of it. The mind will thus leave the past or the future to where they belong. When it gets lost in thought, you are also mindful of it and the thought duly ceases.
The more mindful the mind, the more radiant it becomes. It is no longer cluttered by thoughts. Nor does it wander around, picking up unnecessary experiences. Or talk you into buying things you don't need! When the mind is clear and calm, inner strength is developed, giving rise to unshakable confidence. More importantly, the mind remains in the present moment, contented, happy and at peace.