Skydiving and the Mind
Clearing the Mind
By Brian Germain
In the previous article, we discussed the profound usefulness of meditation preparation as a tool to prevent overreaction and panic. In this installment we will take a closer look at one traditional meditation technique, as taught by the Tibetan Buddhist monks.
It is important to first make it clear that this is but one method of clearing and focusing the mind. There are countless practices available, many of which have been around for thousands of years. The method presented here is referred to as “Shamatha” meditation, or Mindfulness/Awareness Practice. It is one of many powerful tools used to hone one’s mental sharpness in preparation for real-life challenges. Unlike many other methods, it is devoid of a religious or spiritual component, making it a cross-cultural practice that fits with any cosmological context.
One of the most important aspects of meditation is posture. Sitting completely upright is what separates this moment from normal waking consciousness. Lying flat on your back can result in falling asleep, which is not really the goal here. During meditation, we are striving to remain alert and aware of everything in our present moment. Sitting in a perfectly balanced posture also prevents physical discomfort. Long meditations in bad body position will result in pain that may last for hours or days. Placing a pillow under your butt may be helpful in finding your balance when sitting “Indian style”, as this tilts the pelvis a bit forward. Finding the middle of your balance with your spine perfectly straight allows you to relax fully.
In this ancient style of meditation, the eyes are open, usually placed at about at 45 degree angle. Closing the eyes disengages us from the world. When we sit, we are being in the world as much as possible. Notice your surrounds, but hold your gaze still. Be where you are without interacting with the world. Simply notice what is.
Notice your breathing. When you are sitting in meditation, there isn’t much going on. In fact, the only thing that is changing is the air going in and out of your lungs. Since the goal is to place the attention on whatever the present moment happens to be, noticing the breath is pretty much all the is to do. In Traditional Shamatha practice, the mouth is slightly open and we breathe through both the nose and the mouth. The exhale is slightly restricted in throat, which helps keep the breathing slow and gentle.
Letting go. Thoughts are going to come into your mind. The only way to prevent the mind from thinking is unconsciousness, which is the direct opposite of this practice. Notice whatever comes into your mind, and let it go, returning to the present moment. When you finally realize that you are caught up in another thought, simply label it “thinking”, and let it go.
That sounds simple. It is not. We are accustomed to living in content, which means that as soon as there is nothing in the mind, we have a habit of filling that space with thought. The goal, of course, is to remain in the absence of though, which is virtually impossible. However, if we continually let go of the content of our minds, over and over again, the space between the thoughts begins to grow. We then reside in basic awareness, rather than in our personalities. It is in this state that the body truly relaxes, and we alter our patterns of thinking and reacting. This is how we re-shape who we are into a more clearheaded interpreter of reality.
Sanity, it has been said, is simply our ability to see the world as it actually is. Any activity that clears the mind of extraneous thought and focuses us on the present moment promotes the kind of accurate appraisal skills that are so important for safe flying. Busy minds that follow content from one thought to the next are powerless to alter the direction of the thought process. This is why the average human being does not develop their emotional intelligence beyond a certain point. They are a victim of their own psychological momentum.
Our perception of the world is skewed by our thinking. The dynamics of the present moment are what they are, and then we add our personal interpretation to the information. This skews the experience toward our expectations. In other words, the more we identify with our thinking rather than our simple perceptions of the world, the farther we drift from a correct interpretation of our sensory information. If we spend less time absorbed in the content of our minds and simply observe our world without interpretation, we will become better judges of what is going on around us.
By stepping out of our emotional mind, with all of its associations and attachments and habits, we can choose our reactions to the world. This is how we foster the clear mind that sees the world as it is, and makes the correct appraisals based on what is actually happening, rather than knee-jerk responses that have more to do with the past than the present.
The Master sees the world as it is, and does exactly what is necessary. It is not clever forethought that brings about perfect reactions to the world. It is balanced preparedness. The clear and open mind of the Master expects nothing. There is simply the calm awareness what is actually happening. Beyond that, there is no one. The Master is empty.
When you clear your mind,
you are the Master.
Brian Germain, Author of Transcending Fear, Battling the Enemy Within, attended Graduate School in Contemplative Psychotherapy at Naropa University, an Institution founded by Tibetan Monk Chogyum Trungpa Rimpoche. For more information, visit: www.TranscendingFEAR.com