Here’s a simple exercise (not the heaving grunting type): take an empty jam jar, put half a handful of soil from the garden into it and then fill it up with water. Give a big shake. Check the state of the contents. Leave the jar on the top of the washing machine (reason will be explained later), making sure the machine isn’t running. Return after 30 mins and check the jar. What do you see?
The soil has settled at the bottom and water distilled at the top – right? The water won’t be crystal clear, but it will definitely be clearer than it was when you first shook the jar.
The shaken jar is representative of the state of our minds when it is constantly buzzing. It is churning with a billion thoughts every second, each distracting us and demanding our attention. Clearly we can’t focus on a billion thoughts and trying to do so is extremely energy intensive, hence our fatigue. We do have inbuilt braking systems but these don’t work well because they have remained under used.
Because until recently we have been told that the mark of a successful person is how well they can ‘multi task’. Arianne Huffington in her book states that some of the high flyers in the USA competed against each other on this front. We have been encouraged to try and do multiple tasks at the same time. I remember once when my children were young that I had one child sitting on the floor playing, the other was cradled on my left hip, I was stirring a pot on the cooker and had a phone jammed between my ear and shoulder…and then the door bell rang!
The constant presence of technology has made matters worse: we are now connected with the world 24/7. Nothing ever stops anymore. Doctors have even coined a condition to indicate our ‘marriage’ to our mobile phones – phantom vibration syndrome. One of my patients used to sleep with her mobile phone under her pillow and the first thing she checked when she woke, was her phone. No more.
So going back to our jar of muddy water on top of the washing machine: what would happen to the muddiness in this colloid if you were to now put the jar into the washing machine and ran the spin cycle? Please note I am NOT suggesting you actually out a jar of muddy water into the washing machine, I am asking you to use your imagination. It is highly unlikely you would get any clear water, in fact you might even break the jar with the contents soiling your machine.
Absurd though this next statement sounds, it is true: Modern society’s constant insistence on multitasking and the incessant chatter from technology, have muddied our Minds and we are find ourselves stuck on a constant spin cycle.
Result: no clarity, increased anxiety and fear; chronic diseases, relationship breakdowns, increased conflict – basically, no peace, calm or contentment.
This is where Mindful Meditation comes in. Sitting for 30mins in a quiet place, focusing on the breath is the equivalent of taking your jam jar out of the spin cycle and placing it on top of the washing machine. Thoughts will continue to pervade your Mind, that’s quiet natural. Don’t usher thoughts away, that will increase their preponderance; instead acknowledge them and ‘park’ them somewhere to be attended to at the end of the 30mins. You may have to do this a thousand times, that’s ok. With a little bit of practice with diligence, these thoughts will slow down, though they will never stop. For example, when you run the washing machine with the jar on top, the contents will churn a bit but not as much as if it were actually in the drum. Even the Buddha had to contain with the distractions of Mara.
So next time you feel Mindful Meditation is mumbo jumbo, remember the analogy of the jar of muddy water.
Why don’t you test this – pick a task that you aren’t doing very well at the present time. Then try some Mindful Meditation and see how your performance on this task changes.
Let me know how you get on.