This is a guest post by Andrew Scheffer.
Most of us are in the habit of locking our homes, our cars, our cell phones and even our computers.
We know that if we leave any of our possessions unprotected, someone might take advantage of the opportunity to steal our things, infect us with a virus or cause other disruptions and problems.
Protection is important whether we are at home or traveling. Hotels even provide safes.
But who is guarding our minds? Any thoughts can come and go freely. There is no guardian to protect us. When we find ourselves unable to sleep, stressed out or worried, or overcome with sorrow, we wonder why. Mindfulness can guard and protect our mind.
All forms of meditation can be classified as either tranquility meditation (which involves the repeating of a phrase, the reflection on certain qualities or the recitation of a mantra) or insight meditation (the moment to moment knowing of physical and mental objects). Meditation itself is an imprecise word but should be understood to mean a form of high level mental training. So, we might also say the two main avenues of high level mental development are tranquility meditation and insight meditation.
Tranquility meditation protects the mind like a safe. It allows the mind to focus on the object of attention so that negative states of mind, don’t have a chance to arise. While this can be very effective, like the hotel safe, it cannot be carried with us. Tranquility practice requires physical seclusion so that we can develop mental seclusion by reciting the phrase or meditation object. When we leave that physical seclusion, we leave our tranquility behind as well. Insight meditation or mindfulness affords us the benefit of portability.
Rather than wrapping the whole world in rubber or leather for our walking comfort, we wear shoes. Like a pair of shoes, insight meditation can easily travel with us. To gain insight, we need to focus on the continuous flow of our thoughts and feelings. We do this by developing the ability to aim the mind at an object and then developing the mental strength to stay focused. In basketball, for example, not only must we aim at the rim and backboard, but we must throw the ball with the right amount of force. If our effort is too weak, the ball will be an “air ball.” If it is too strong, the ball will either go over the backboard or hit too hard to ricochet into the hoop. The right balance of aim and effort is required.
The same is true of mindfulness. To strengthen our mindfulness we must learn to aim our attention properly and sustain it. If our attention wanders, we won’t see the details or understand what we are paying attention to. If we try too hard, we can overshoot the object of our attention. If we are lackadaisical, we will simply miss the object. In either case, we will need to increase our effort to connect with the object fully and completely. The objects, in the case of mindfulness, are the thoughts and feelings that arise in our mind and body.
Once we are able to focus and see clearly the steady flow of thoughts and feelings, we will be providing the first level of security to our minds. We will see what comes and what goes. Over time, we will develop the ability to guard our mind like a doorman guards a door, keeping out the unwanted states of mind and providing a general feeling of calm and security.
As the holiday season approaches, please take time to focus your attention with mindfulness on your breath and the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise to provide protection for what would otherwise be an unguarded mind.
Andrew Scheffer has a career that spans more than 25 years. For the past 15 years he has held various line and leadership roles in intentional and multinational Private Banking and Wealth Management corporations. Over the course of the past 23 years, Andrew has spent more than 10,000 hours in intensive training in mindfulness meditation with the world’s greatest mindfulness teachers. He has an MBA from The Wharton School, where he served as a teaching assistant in the First Year Leadership curriculum and where he founded the Wharton Leadership Venture in Self Awareness, and a BA from the Johns Hopkins University. Andrew brings a unique perspective to sales and service and to the challenges that we all face in performing at our peak in all areas of our lives. You can learn more at: www.andrewscheffer.com