When I sit down to meditate I usually can’t help thinking “now I will do this, now I will try that.” These thoughts are usually followed by, “wow, this is working so well” or more often by, “will I ever get the hang of this?”
The busy mind that guides me through my day, the “do this, cross that off, and don’t forget to…” mind that helped me become a chemistry teacher is the same mind that sits with me during meditation. It is geared to accomplishments, reaching goals, solving problems, and perfecting the world’s flaws.
What I like about meditation, though, is the chance to do nothing and just observe. To see what my mind produces without actually trying to fix anything. To that busy, curious mind I say, “Thanks for the advice. And the warnings. What a good friend you are.” I smile. I sit.
Here’s a poem in this spirit from Ikkyū (1394-1481), a Japanese Zen priest and notorious rascal. ‘Law’ and ‘sutras’ refers to Buddhist rules of conduct, stories, and teachings.
Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind and rain,
the snow and moon.