Children on a playground will play until they’re exhausted.
Then they will run and sit beside their parents, “behave,” have their lunch, and tell Mom about their day. If Mom has a few words for them, they will listen. But take a child to the playground and ask her to behave before she has swung on the monkey bars, climbed up the rope, played hopscotch, or chased a friend around, and she will offer nothing but resistance. All good parents understand the nature of children and learn how to harmonize their will with them.
Our thoughts are like children in a playground. If we treat them as such, we will find no resistance when dealing with them. Our meditation cushion is the playground upon which we sit to investigate the nature of our minds. As soon as we sit down, thoughts proliferate—they are the mind’s wild children.
Let them be. Let them play. Let them exhaust themselves. They will naturally return to you.
It is disingenuous to impose a meditation topic on our thoughts. Instead, it will only set us in opposition to our thoughts as much as a parent who brings her child to a park to play but expects her to eat her lunch first. The child may obey, but Mom’s joy of eating with her daughter will be lost. Likewise, thoughts are enemies when we expect them to “behave.” Unruly thoughts seem so because we wish them to comply with a normative, we imagine them being “right.” Well-meaning though we may be, our approach is ineffective and inept.
If we wish to quiet our thoughts so that we can meditate, we need to understand that without them there would be no meditation. Thoughts cannot be separated from our minds for both are dependent on each other. In perfect equilibrium, which is the aim of meditation, the dependent nature of mind and thought becomes invisible, and no distinction is observed.
Before we can understand this non-duality our intention must not stand in opposition to thought.
Quantum physics observes that the behavior of experiments is affected by the observer’s expectations and the experiment performed. The most famous example exemplifying this is known as the “Double Slit Experiment” showing that light can behave like a particle or a wave depending on the way the experiment is performed. This fact shocked the physics community. Physicists can do nothing about the way light behaves and wisely don’t try, but they do take great delight in observing.
Our thoughts are our friends or enemies depending on our attitude toward them. Are we an observer, or an enforcer? Observation is a key component of meditation. If we can observe our thoughts without elaborating on them, we will never feel them a drain. They are there—it is a fact of life. Just as a particle or wave of light, we can observe the phenomena of thought and light but we cannot do anything about what we see.
Obviously, the question arises, “What is the point of meditation or is physics, for that matter?” The answer is that these disciplines enable us to be more subtle observers and discover increasingly subtle layers of this so-called material world we live in. All of us observe the same world, but we do not see it the same. Our level of appreciation increases as our ability to patiently observe increases.
So, meditation is really about putting our views aside and seeing what is without elaborating on what is. It is refraining from interfering and allowing the world to appear without dressing it up or undressing it.
It is said that to change the world we must change ourselves, and this seems to imply there is something to do that will make us better people and make the world better. It is a wrongheaded notion because we are naturally good and need not place good upon good any more than place a head upon our head—but we must see that good.
Enjoy your little girl. Dart into the playground before you even park your car. Watch her play and forget about the lunch you made. Why not surrender to the joy of being an understanding Mom who allows conditions to ripen as they will? You can go ahead and eat if you want, but why impose your will upon your daughter? If you wait, you can eat together.
What do you want to do?