Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  How to never be distracted

(5.39) I should prepare for any activity by thinking,
“My body and mind must remain correctly composed”;
And from time to time check carefully to see
What I am actually doing and thinking.

This is helpful advice for us and others.  We all have quite a lot of extra bodily movement that is and looks uncontrolled.  We are normally completely unaware of movement of our arms, hands, head, mouth, eyes.  They just do their thing as we go about our day.  All of these are a reflection of quite extreme movements of mind.  Our mind is running around.

We notice the difference when we are with someone who is gathered and has a mental and physical stillness about them.  It helps us slow down and calm down.  Gen Samten is the master of this.  When you are around him, you can just feel his stillness, both mental and physical.  But it doesn’t feel rigid and unmoving, rather it feels gathered, stable and composed with a dash of suppleness and flexibility.  When he is listening to somebody, for example, you can just tell all of him is listening.  Because he has the power to give his undivided attention, he is able to bring real benefit to others.

Internally, we always need to remain still and calm.  Externally, we need to be gathered without uncontrolled movements, but natural and approachable.  But we need to not go to the other extreme of being unnatural.  This will make people feel uncomfortable and make it difficult for them to relate to us.

Our own actions of body, speech, and mind must be deliberate, controlled, and arising from a clear intention in our mind.  Our actions must have meaning and purpose.  We must try not to lose that.  If we succeed, then we will discover over time that the difference between our meditation session and our meditation break gets smaller and smaller.  We become quite composed.  If we can develop that stillness, we can reduce that gap.  We need to check and look to see what we are doing and how we are acting.  we have to be aware of every moment of our behavior.

(5.40) With all my effort, I should regularly check
That the unsubdued elephant of my mind
Has not broken free but remains bound
To the great pillar of thinking about Dharma.

We think about an awful lot. We have this crazy, untamed mind going everywhere.  Most of our conscious thoughts are quite unnecessary, leaving us with no space at all. Our mind is cluttered, full of conceptual thoughts.  As a result, our mind is particularly unpeaceful.   When our mind is full of conceptuality, it is a breeding ground for delusion and non-virtue.  We plan a lot, and we worry every day, thinking about all sorts of different things.  We wonder – we think about this happening and that happening.  We waste a tremendous amount of mental energy worrying about “what if”.  It seems to never end.  We go through infinite possibilities and we cannot rest.

Why don’t we simply maintain refuge, rely upon our spiritual guide, simply, merely trust?  “But, but, but, …” our mind objects.  No buts.  We over-analyse.  Nothing wrong with analysis, but there is a lot wrong with over analysis.  When we want to get to know someone, we think about their behavior, habits, their history, etc.  Why can’t we just think, “my kind mother,” “deity,” “hero,” “heroine.”  By keeping it simple and letting go of all these distractions, we allow space in our mind, keeping it mind bound to that great pillar of thinking about Dharma.

When Geshe-la opened the temple at Manjushri and he gave three days of teachings on overcoming distractions, he said something quite extraordinary.  He said, “if our mind is always thinking about Dharma, we are never distracted.”  Our mind may wander from one Dharma subject to another, something we should eventually gain control over, but in the meantime as long as our mind is engaged with some truth of Dharma, we are not falling victim to distraction.  When we think deeply about this, nothing could be more important than making this our new habit.


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