Staying Aware: Meditation and the Desire to be Somewhere Else

Meditation is not about going blank, being emptied of thoughts and desires, and going round with a vacant smile. Meditation is about being aware, awake, being present with your mind.

Today I feel like being somewhere else. Nothing seems right. I look out of the window at the autumn sun on yellowing trees, on the pond full of red leaves, and wish I was in a city. If I were in a city I would doubtless be wishing I were in the countryside. It’s one of those days. I’m too cold or too hot, too busy or bored.

Creating this kind of dissatisfaction is the strongest tendency of the human mind. Meditating, unfortunately, does not get rid of the problem. While there are many and varied schools of Buddhism and they are all ultimately designed to do exactly that, be the way out of the suffering that we create for ourselves, the mind remains designed the way it is. There is no quick fix, and the paradox is, that trying to escape is in itself the kind of mind-driven endeavor that causes suffering. Meditation is not about going blank, being emptied of thoughts and desires, and going round with a vacant smile. Meditation is about being aware, awake, being present with your mind.

So, today, as I go about my business, I am staying aware. This means a thousand times of realising that I’ve forgotten to. That all of me has got caught up in the desire to be somewhere else, that in fact I am somewhere else, I’m all discomfort, all frustration. I’m being led around by my mind like a bull with a ring in its nose. I recognise for a minute that I’ve got lost in thoughts, without judging myself or them. I’m not actually in any kind of prison. I’m just thinking. I’m the place in which the thoughts come and go and take root and, if I’m not careful, take over. This process goes on, of forgetting and remembering. The remembering lasts a little longer sometimes. This place starts to feel like home.

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