I am privileged to lead a mindfulness class at Salt Lake City’s Red Butte Garden each summer. Our practice area is next to a small waterfall. Hearing meditation is often performed to the beat of running water, birdsong, and the gentle breeze. It is a peaceful area to practice most of the time. However, there are times when weed-whackers or backup beepers can dominate the aural environment. This could make it a difficult task to find peace in our practice. We don’t let these less pleasant sounds frustrate us. Instead, we welcome them in. They are what is happening right now.
A beautiful, tranquil, and spacious space is an asset for meditation and yoga. Yoga studios and meditation retreat centers strive to provide a peaceful environment for their clients. However, there are some things that we cannot control. It can be challenging to find peace when many factors affect our lives, such as weather, construction, and background noise.
Yoga Sutra 1.2 describes yoga and meditation as “the settling the mind into silence,” which is often translated as “the stopping of our minds from thinking.” The “monkey mind” goes to sleep. The silence that this sutra describes is far more expansive. Yoga’s silence is not affected by external or inner conditions. Yoga’s silence is like the sky, unaffected by rain, wind, snow, or violent storms. The atmosphere is always clear and expansive, no matter what. Awareness is possible.
HOW TO FIND PEACE MIDST OF CHAOS
How do we find peace in a chaotic world? This question reveals the actual value of daily practice to improve our lives. There will always be challenges in our lives. Like my classes at the nursery we sometimes get birdsong, cool breezes, and a waterfall. Some days, we get the weed wacker. It’s not up for us.
The solution to mindfulness practice is mindfulness. This has been a great help to my Red Butte mindfulness student. Instead of resisting the weed whacker whenever it is present, we let it be part of our meditation. It’s actually what’s happening right now. It is possible to resist it or get angry or frustrated. This choice can have particular implications on our ability to find peace. You also have the option to allow the sound to continue for as long as you like. This choice has completely different consequences.
After all, sound is vibration. It is not only what we hear, but also how it resonates within our bodies. It can be used as a meditation object to get rid of the frustrations and annoyances that cause us pain. It is possible to find peace within that sky-like awareness.
This is true for all kinds of discomforts: heat or cold, mild bodily pains, smells, and tastes, as well as heat or cold. Before we accept a discomfort, it is important to determine if it could inflict injury. Most minor irritations can be investigated.
TAMING THE WILD MOONKEY
The monkey mind can also be observed in the same way. Here are some facts about thinking to put things in perspective. The National Science Foundation published a 2005 article that claimed humans could have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000. Ninety-five percent of these thoughts are the same as yesterday. If you find yourself meditating with a lot of ideas, it is not a sign that you are doing anything wrong. It’s just human nature. We can all agree that the ability to think is a positive quality in our daily lives.
Thoughts aren’t all the same. Some ideas are positive and can guide you in the right direction. Others, however, may need to be more helpful. 95% of the thoughts we think over and over are the latter. If our thoughts are too much, it’s possible to stop thinking and be aware of what is happening. It’s much easier to notice which thoughts we want to pursue and which ones to let go of when we take a step back and observe.
It’s not how we respond to them that will determine if we find peace. It’s how we react to them that is important. Can we allow them to be there while we are in a state of curious awareness?