There is a Zen Buddhist story used as a teaching: Once there was a man by the side of the road who was watching a man galloping quickly by on a horse, it seemed he had somewhere very important to go. The man by the side of the road yells out to him, "Hey! Where are you going so fast, it must be important!" and the rider yells back, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
'The horse' is our habit mind that is racing, it is the pace of the modern world, it is the \what’s next' mind, the mind that is always having a project, the mind that is rarely in the present moment because thoughts are rushing and capturing us into the future or the past. This is the busy-ness that is normal in all our lives. The horse is running and we are rushing but to where - and why so fast? Are we missing the present moment? How many times do we just stop and simply BE with no agenda, no plan, no what’s next, just the moment in all its magic? The answer is probably almost never.
Busy-ness is a modern disease
I remember when I used to live in Indonesia, I was sitting with a Balinese friend one day and we saw a foreigner running in the midday tropical sun through the village sweating and looking like they were on a mission somewhere. With a furrowed brow and determined force, he was running fast to nowhere.
My Balinese friend and I just looked at each other in complete wonder - why would anyone do this sort of thing? In Bali, this kind of action is seen as a kind of insanity. If you have time to relax, you relax, and if you have to work, then you work in a relaxed way. They are experts in the art of just being. Nothing special, nowhere to go, but life is full. Totally balanced.
Most traditional cultures live this way. Seen from the eyes of the so-called 'modern world' these people are lazy, because when there is no work needed to be done they just relax and BE.
We have totally forgotten how to BE, every moment is filled with doing. If we have a moment of nothing to do, we pick up our smartphone and start scrolling through meaningless social media!
The art of being means to stop following your thoughts
If we look closely at the reason we are always running around distracted and busy while life passes us by, we will see that the cause of this disturbance is our mind that is racing and the fact that we are always following our thoughts. We believe that every thought that passes through our head is true, and these thoughts are catching us in their hooks, pulling us along in a rapid run to nowhere.
The traditional yogic metaphor for this mind is that our mind is like a drunken monkey that ate a bag of hot chilli peppers.
According to yoga, we have to find a way to abide without following thoughts. As yoga is an ancient science, the problem of the monkey mind has been around for a very long time! Of course, in the modern world it is much much worse than it was even a few hundred years ago. So how can we come to being and stillness in this rapid and stressful modern life?
A practical meditation on simply being
Because the racing mind is a habit, just like any habit, we have to break the pattern and replace it with a good one instead.
The best way we can start to access Being and come out of the stress of modern life is very simple:
You can do this practice in any situation, you don’t have to be in a quiet place, a yoga mat is not necessary and you don’t need any special essential oils to come to it.In any situation you find yourself in, every now and then just STOP. Don’t move, freeze your body movements, and just come back to your breath in the belly. In the stillness of the body, just watch your breath at the belly for one or two breaths with your eyes closed. Then, open your eyes and just BE. Look around you, feel your body, see the miracle of being alive! You are alive!
And in this moment the mind can just stop and you can feel the simplicity and magic of this present moment.If you do this practice often during the day you will find that your mind has more and more space and you are more often in the moment without being tempted to follow thoughts.
Of course, like all yoga practices, they only work when you do them… So STOP NOW while reading this and do the practice.
How do you feel?
May all beings be free of the monkey mind and be fulfilled and at peace in the magical present moment.