By Eknath Easwaran. Just as a fitness routine can create a strong, supple body, spiritual disciplines can shape a secure personality and a resilient, loving mind. Writing as an experienced, friendly coach, Easwaran takes the timeless teachings of the Buddha and other mystics and shows how we can train the mind not just during meditation but throughout the day. Easwaran shows how training the mind is a glorious challenge — one that brings joy and purpose to life. A dream is real so long as it lasts. When we awake, we do not pass from unreality to reality; we pass from a lower state of reality to a higher one.
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By Eknath Easwaran. Just as a fitness routine can create a strong, supple body, spiritual disciplines can shape a secure personality and a resilient, loving mind.
Writing as an experienced, friendly coach, Easwaran takes the timeless teachings of the Buddha and other mystics and shows how we can train the mind not just during meditation but throughout the day. Easwaran shows how training the mind is a glorious challenge — one that brings joy and purpose to life.
A dream is real so long as it lasts. When we awake, we do not pass from unreality to reality; we pass from a lower state of reality to a higher one. Is it not possible that there is a state of awareness higher still, compared with which the limited satisfactions of everyday life are no more lasting than a dream?
All that we are, the Buddha said, is the result of what we have thought. He might have added, And all we shall become is the result of what we think now. Nothing, then, can be more important than being able to choose the way we think — our feelings, aspirations, and desires; the way we view our world and ourselves.
Mastery of the mind opens avenues of hope. It means that we can begin to reshape our life and character, rebuild relationships, thrive in the stress of daily living, become the kind of person we want ourselves to be. Each chapter was originally a talk given to a select group of students.
I touch on theory, but the emphasis is always practical and down-to-earth. I have written for those who want to understand not only how the mind works, but also how it can be changed — which means, in this context, those who are interested in the actual practice of meditation. Today we hear meditation used to describe a number of things, some of which have nothing to do with meditation as I understand it. These techniques may be relaxing, they may be inspiring, they may be good for your physical health, but as far as accomplishing enduring, beneficial changes in the mind, they have no more effect than writing on water.
There are also time-honored methods of meditation which differ from the one I teach: for example, watching the flow of thoughts in detachment, without any attempt at control. I respect these methods in the hands of an illumined teacher, but confusion can result from mixing instructions that come from different perspectives. Meditation teachers have different approaches too, and it is good to remember that two people who say they meditate may be doing very dissimilar things.
When I talk about meditation, I am referring to a dynamic discipline that would be recognized in any of the major spiritual traditions of the world: teaching attention to flow without a break toward a single inspirational focus within the mind in this case, the memorized words of an inspirational passage until finally the mind becomes completely absorbed and all distracting thoughts disappear.
In this profound absorption the mind is still, calm, and clear. This is our native state. Once we become established in it, we know once and for all who we are and what life is for. As the Bible puts it, Be still, and know that I am God. In these pages I will often refer to the great mystics of the world.
This word mystic, too, is easily misunderstood. Mysticism is the conviction, born of personal experience, that there is a divine core in human personality which each of us can realize directly, and that making this discovery is the real goal of our lives.
A mystic is anyone who has achieved this goal. The great mystics speak the same language, for they come from the same country of the soul. Whenever I describe the mechanics of meditation in this book, I will always be referring to the method I teach, which I have practiced myself for many decades.
It is essentially the training of attention. The technique is simple but far from easy. It requires effort, and — like athletic conditioning — it can be quite strenuous. Its purpose is not to attain some remarkable experience during meditation but to master the thinking process.
The rewards, therefore, come during the rest of the day. As your meditation deepens, you will find yourself stronger and more resilient, better able to face the challenges of life as the kind of person you would like to be: loving, creative, resourceful, and full of vitality.
At the end of this book I give a very brief summary of the eight-point program which I myself have followed. There you will find instructions in meditation along with an introduction to seven very helpful practices, such as slowing down, which extend the benefits of meditation into daily living. This program is elaborated in detail in my book Passage Meditation, which has a full chapter on each point.
If you are not already familiar with these points from my other books, you might want to look now at the summary in Part 5 in order to get the most from the chapters that follow. Not long ago my wife and I went for an early morning walk on a secluded beach near our home. The coastline in northern California can be rugged, and on this stretch the waves were uncommonly high.
I found myself absorbed in watching a huge log with which the sea was playing like a cat. Wave after wave carried the log onto the shore and then rolled it back, unresisting, in the curl of the backwash.
Finally a huge swell swept it far up onto the sand. I like this place. But a few minutes later another rush of water lifted it free again and carried it back into the sea.
Along it went without a sign of protest, buffeted and rolled at the pleasure of the waves. The Buddha would say that most of us live at the mercy of circumstances, going wherever life takes us.
Even those whom the world calls great, especially if we look beyond their sphere of greatness, often seem to have had scant say in their lives: they may have conquered many thousands, for example, yet lived at the mercy of their own whims and passions. Like the Buddha, we might observe these vagaries and wonder to ourselves, Is that all there is to life, being buffeted to and fro by circumstances until the show is over?
Is that the best a human being can manage? As a former professor of English literature, when I saw those massive waves bearing down with the foam on their crests tossed by the wind, I immediately recalled some lines from Byron describing the white manes of the sea. I felt as if horses were charging down on me, and my first impulse was, The cavalry is coming. Let me run for my life! It was a normal response. But far out in the water, I noticed with surprise, were two young fellows whose response was just the opposite.
They had no desire for a glassy surface. They wanted waves, fierce waves, the bigger the better. The sport still fascinates me. I stood back and watched while one brave soul turned his back on a powerful swell and tried to get to his feet. The wave picked him up and tossed him aside into its crest, spinning his board into the air like a missile.
If that had happened to me, I would have swum straight for the beach and hauled myself out on the sand, leaving my board to anyone who wanted to claim it. But this fellow was made of different stuff. He retrieved his board and waited there for the next wave to come.
Again the same thing happened — and again he came back for more. The other young man had more experience. He knew just where he wanted to be, and when the next wave rolled in he caught its pace with a couple of swift, sure strokes. In seconds he was on his feet, cutting back and forth along the face of that wall of water as if making the ocean do his bidding were the easiest thing in the world. Suddenly the wave arched overhead and crashed down, apparently drowning the poor chap in an avalanche of water.
But a moment later, crouching like a runner ready to spring from the block, he shot triumphantly from a tunnel of spray and swung his board up over the back of the wave, out of danger. The same waves from which I had wanted to run, he had harnessed and learned to ride.
All of us, I think, would like to enjoy that kind of mastery in living. Countless books today appeal to our yearning for a key to life, or at least to a part of life, which only experts know: methods, secrets, tips, or tactics for mastering the forces that otherwise master us. To judge from the records of ancient civilizations, this must be one of the oldest of human desires.
Is there a key to our destiny? If so, do we have a say in it, or are our character and fate fixed by the stars? Our destiny, he said, lies in our own hands: All that we are is the result of what we have thought. We are formed and molded by our thoughts. It follows that what we shall be tomorrow is shaped by what we think today. To this penetrating observation he added a simple twist. If we merely react to life, this implies, we have no more freedom of choice than that log the ocean was playing with.
We go where life pushes and pulls us. But if we can choose our responses, we have mastered life. Where is the challenge in that? We show our skill by how well we can handle whatever the sea sends. All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It sounds so simple, but this truth has far-reaching implications. The Buddha would go so far as to say that it is we who have made the circumstances we find ourselves in today. We have got ourselves into them by all the deep-seated ways of thinking that led us into the actions, plans, behavior, and situations whose sum total is our lives.
Yet this seems not quite fairly put, for not much of this has been done intentionally. We have exercised very little control over these thoughts.
We say that we think our thoughts, but it would be more accurate to say that our thoughts think us. How many times have you exclaimed, I wish I could stop thinking that! I wish I could stop craving this. I wish I could be different from the way I am! The Buddha would reply, You can.
If you have felt this desire fervently, you have what it takes to learn to live in freedom.
Conquest of Mind : Take Charge of Your Thoughts and Reshape Your Life Through Meditation
Conquest of Mind is a book that describes practices and strategies for leading the spiritual life. Written by Eknath Easwaran , the strategies are intended to be usable within any major religious tradition, or outside of all traditions. The book was originally published in the United States in Multiple revised English-language editions have been published, and translations have also appeared in several other European and Asian languages.
Conquest of Mind: Take Charge of Your Thoughts and Reshape Your Life Through Meditation
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