Refine Your Mind’s Qualities and Potential with Meditation Practice
One beautiful thing about the mind is that it doesn’t have to be become anything else. You might think of it as a gold nugget that you’ve discovered. Let’s assume that you recognize it as gold even though it appears to be rather lackluster and ordinary. From the moment you begin the work of transforming the gold nugget to the moment the gold has been refined and then made into a beautiful piece of jewelry, the essential qualities and potential of the gold never changed. The gold didn’t become “golder.”
The whole process of bringing out the best of the gold begins with refining it. We don’t need to alter its chemical element; we appreciate its natural potential and want to give it the opportunity to shine. It’s the same when we work with the mind. When we embark on the journey of meditation, we don’t hold on to the idea that we’re going to add value to something that wasn’t particularly valuable to begin with. It’s totally the opposite! We’re not improving on the mind; we’re not making it better. By sitting with the mind and observing it, we are giving ourselves the means to discover its beauty and natural freedom. We’re refining it. Through our meditation practice, we’re basically removing the impurities that were obscuring its brilliance, just as when we remove the impurities that never were an essential constituent of the gold.
Mind’s impurities, its confusion or delusions, are just fleeting, adventitious; they arise when causes and conditions come together and seem to sort of agglomerate or coalesce and stick to the mind. This is why mindfulness and awareness need not be a forceful practice. It may seem that way in the beginning because it’s kind of tedious—you’re supposed to maintain awareness, to count your breath, to notice and let go, and you can’t quite do that. It feels like you’re constraining the mind–the first steps of any training often seems like a restriction. And so you might assume that the general path of training and refining the mind through meditation is a path of constraint: you’ll have to squeeze your mind into the form of goodness.
But it’s the exact opposite! You’re not molding your mind into goodness—you’re unleashing goodness that’s already there. It’s so spacious! Mind isn’t located anywhere in particular in the body, the brain, or wherever. You can’t point to it and say, “there it is!” Mind’s essential quality is spaciousness. Its very nature is goodness. This spacious awareness and goodness is what you discover progressively as you sit in meditation with your mind.
An early revelation is that mind can find peace simply by not running after all the perceptions, memories, ideas, emotions and thoughts that arise from it and come back to it. By not engaging in mind’s projections, we find peace. This is a great discovery! It’s like the sense of freedom and lightness that comes from dropping a very heavy piece of luggage–a suitcase full of stones–that we’ve been carrying since time immemorial. We might find ourselves thinking that we should have let go of this a long time ago. This sense of being liberated from the heaviness is a very important stage in our process. When we feel lighter and less encumbered, we are that much closer to unleashing mind’s natural goodness.
Until now, we’ve always been devoting our attention to strategies, ideas, and thoughts; to yes and no, pros and cons, and all of that. We’ve been trying to ensure some security, pave the road to happiness, whatever. In fact, we were totally distracted. We were so busy running with mind in every direction that we were never able to stop and appreciate its qualities. Now, sitting still, practicing mindfulness, running nowhere, we are refining the gold nugget of mind, unveiling its spaciousness and inherent goodness.