Ajahn Anan (1954-present): A mindful smile
When we first come to meditate, we will notice quite quickly that even sitting for a minute seems almost impossible. All we get is restlessness and agitation. With practice though, we will soon be able to sit for longer periods. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes—eventually we will be able to sit for half an hour with ease. Sometimes the meditation is peaceful, other times not, but in the beginning stages the key element is patience.
It’s important to see that the five hindrances to peace in the mind—sensual desire, ill will, dullness, restlessness, doubt—are not created by meditation. It’s just what is there already. In daily life we are used to thinking a lot, and often not in a very skillful or controlled way. This type of thinking tends to agitate the mind and create different types of mental stress. So when we sit down to concentrate on the breath or another meditation object, what we notice first is what is already there. Suddenly we see, “Hmm, there’s a lot of thinking going on.” So to begin with, just accept that it’s normal for the untrained mind to be like that. And the way to deal with it skillfully is to develop this quality of mindfulness.
We meditate to get to know our mind. But that doesn’t mean we think, “I’ve got to be peaceful!” If we think and attach in this way then we’ll tend to get irritated with ourself when we’re not peaceful. Our aim is just to know the mind. And when we’re working on developing constant awareness, this will include times when we are not very peaceful, when there are thoughts and distractions coming up. So we just know, “Oh, now the mind is distracted.” There will also be times when our mindfulness and concentration are strong and the hindrances disappear. At those times we are aware that, “Now the mind is peaceful. Now the mind is calm and concentrated.” Whatever the experience, we know it for what it is. That’s our aim.
Ajahn Anan is abbot of Wat Marp Jan forest monastery in Thailand. He studied with the internationally-renowned teacher Ajahn Chah and has been a monk since 1975. The above quotation is from the book 'Simple Teachings on Higher Truths' which can be downloaded for free from here.