I liken the thinking process of the brain like a big heavy wheel spinning around and awarenessâ€™ proper place in the center of the wheel where itâ€™s calm and unmoved by the wheel. However over the normal course of the day and weeks the centrifugal force of the wheel slowly pulls at awareness until it gets stuck on the outer wall of the wheel itself. Awareness is now flooded with random thoughts and images â€“ being in this position can be rather chaotic and stressful. The faster the wheel of your mind spins the more chaotic life seems.
To regain control you must move yourself back to the center of the wheel, where it is calm â€“ but how? You must first free yourself centrifugal force â€“ and to do this you must slow down the wheel of the mind. Slowing down the wheel of the mind requires two things:
1) Stop spinning the wheel
2) Hit the Brakes
WHEELS, MONKEYS AND ELEPHANTS
You stop spinning the wheel when donâ€™t let your mind run with whatever thoughts it wants. In Buddhism they refer to the random wandering of the thought as the monkey mind. You have to stop your monkey from spinning the wheel. You do this through conscious intention.
To illustrate intention, there is a story of elephants in training. As babies the elephant trainers put a stake in the ground and chain the baby elephants to it. The baby tries to get away but after many futile attempts it stops trying. The same little stake and chain are used even when the elephant grows up as a full sized adult with the power to rip the stake out of the ground. Now as a powerful adult the elephant doesnâ€™t try to escape. Why? -Because the elephant has been conditioned to accept the stake and chain as limits on its freedom.
The stake in this story represents your intention. Once you put a stake in the ground you stop your elephant from wandering. Now unless you are learning this as a child, your elephant has developed habits of wandering freely that will require more effort to condition.
Do you see the similarities between the elephant metaphor, the monkey mind and the wheel? The elephant and monkey wander, the wheel spins. To control the elephant or monkey you must put a stake into the ground. To slow the wheel down you must create an intention.
THE HARDEST PART IS IN THE BEGINNING
Do not get discouraged the first time you try to put a stake down or slow the wheel down. The run-away elephant will inevitably rip the first few stakes you put down. But each time you put another one down you slow it down just a little bit more. The wheel will inevitably keep spinning the first few times you attempt to hit the brakes, but each time you hit the brakes you slow it down just a little bit more. In the beginning when you create a conscious intention the wheel of your mind will keep spinning â€“ causing you to lose focus and forget your intention. But each time you remember your intention and make an effort again you will be successfully slowing the mind down. It may not be noticeable at first but over repeated attempts you will begin to sense you are regaining control of the mind, the elephant is being conditioned by the stake. Awareness is regaining its position at the calm center of the wheel.
How do you create intention? Creating intention is quite easy; itâ€™s remembering to do it thatâ€™s the hard part. You can say in your mind that you are going to lift your hand and touch a wall â€“ that is creating an intention. You carry out that intention when you do it. The act might seem simple but itâ€™s the process behind the act. You didnâ€™t just touch the wall or act on impulse â€“ you touched the wall with conscious intention. Intention always happens in the now. That is why being present is so important. The breath is one of the best way to maintain presence and keep planting a stake in the ground. The breath is always present. But thereâ€™s a big difference between breathing automatically and breathing consciously. Take a deep breath right now â€“ you just created and acted out an intention. You just planted a stake in the ground, the wheel of your mind just slowed down a little bit. You hardly noticed it and you will soon forget, or not â€“ depending on how much you desire to take control of your mind. If you do it again with another breath, and another and another you will soon reach a state of centeredness.
REMAINING VIGILANT LIKE A NIGHT WATCHMAN
The moment you release your intention the elephant will start wandering, the wheel will start spinning. Slowly at first and controllable â€“ but donâ€™t be fooled. Within usually a day the speed and strength will have reached uncontrollable levels again. To make things easier on your Soul you must maintain the stake, you must apply the brakes and keep the wheel at controllable levels at all times. This is very important to remember!
THIS IS SO HARD..
Once you begin to maintain intention for longer periods I can hear you saying right now that this is difficult. Yes it is a real challenge. Buddha says that you must seek enlightenment like you seek air when drowning.
Spiritual desire cannot be taught. Whether it is through enough lifetimes (if you believe in reincarnation) or simply enough frustration in this lifetime, at some point you reach the desire threshold for committing the necessary effort to slow things down and take control. The question is not whether you can. It’s how much effort are you willing to invest?
GET STRONG IN 30 MINUTE ‘WORK OUT’ SESSIONS
One final thing to remember is that while it may not be possible to be consciously intending ALL of the time, just like itâ€™s not possible to work out in a gym ALL of the time â€“ its not completely necessary. To be strong you can work out hard in a gym for 30 minutes a day and maintain that strength throughout the day. You can do the same thing with setting intention: concentrate on your intention hard for 30 minutes a day and youâ€™ll benefit from that mental strength all through the day. But much like what happens if you donâ€™t go to the gym, you can easily lose your strength in focus if you let more than a day or two pass.
1) To re-center your awareness you must slow the wheel of the mind down.
2) You can slow the wheel down through creating conscious intentions.
3) Aware breathing is a great way to hit the brakes and regain centeredness.
4) By concentrating on intention for 30 minutes or so you can gain strength and clarity throughout the day.
5) Do not let more than a day or two pass or you lose centeredness and make regaining it more difficult than it needs to be.