I am a big fan of actor Richard Gere, and not just for his many movie roles, but because he is also a passionate meditator!
Richard speaks of taming the mind, in terms that anyone can appreciate:
We live in an ocean, a vast, deep ocean; but we live on the surface. The surface is wavy and turbulent and the deeper you go, the stiller the water becomes… and in this stillness, we feel the wholeness and peace that is difficult to attain on the surface.
On the surface, it’s noisy. As part of this ocean, we are immersed in the noise that comes from external influences as well as our own mental noise as a result of those influences. Our minds are constantly busy analyzing, cataloguing, and organizing.
There are always problems to be solved and things to do, and while the mind is very good at doing most of it, it can also cause a lot of unnecessary turmoil with worry and anxiety, and trying to fix problems that either a) don’t exist, b) we can’t fix or c) we try to fix using the same thought processes that created them in the first place.
We spend most of our time on the surface, where we navigate through life. It requires constant vigilance! Not only do we have to interact with the outside world, but the inner world as well. We have to avoid the icebergs of thoughts and particularly the treacherous waters of negative and disempowering thought habits.
Many of us are habituated to negativity. Scientists call these ANTs, or Automatic Negative Thoughts – an evolutionary adaptation that helped us notice things that could harm us. But, the mind does not differentiate between physical dangers and emotional threats. Our emotional threats center on loss, or not having: losing freedom, losing a lover, losing a home, not having success, not having what we want, etc.
Becoming aware of these negative thought habits is a huge revelation – and that’s what happened to Richard Gere when he first began meditating.
He became aware of his thought habits.
When you become aware of the chaos on the surface, which includes your automatic reactions to life, the habits that pull you away from your goals, the way you use words to make yourself unhappy… then, you can use this awareness to start to tame your mind.
It’s a process, and a most fascinating journey into the deep, radiant stillness of the mind that is your true nature.
So imagine the ocean, next time you meditate. There are two approaches and I invite you to try them both:
1. Imagine that you are a fish (to eliminate any fears you may associate with the ocean). The ocean is your home and you are comfortable here. On the surface, you are more alert to the opportunities and dangers around you yet you are also influenced by storms, waves, and currents. If you let yourself dive deeper, to where the water is still and peaceful, you can leave the stress of the surface behind.
You can take this peaceful dive anytime you want. Even a few minutes a day will help you leave the choppy waves and icebergs at the surface, and retreat to the serenity of the deep.
2. Imagine that you are the ocean. You are the whole as well as a part of the whole. The surface is only chaotic and choppy because of your automatic, reactive thoughts and the fact that your “currents” of thought are often at odds with each other – first you think a positive thought about a goal and start to drift toward that goal, and then you shift direction with a self-doubting thought that pulls you in the opposite direction. Imagine having six or seven goals and six or seven positive/negative thoughts about each one – what turbulence!
In time, with practice, you learn to exert influence on the surface from below – from that place of stillness and peace – by choosing the direction of your “currents” of thought. Instead of being influenced by the negative thoughts, you allow them to dissipate instead of becoming waves that toss you around; and your “currents” take you consistently toward your ideal situation.
Richard Gere is not the only celebrity who has embraced meditation as a life-enhancing practice. I encourage you to look him up on YouTube and listen to his wise words about meditation and the mind!