“Even if all we do in thirty minutes of meditation is to call the mind back thirty times, we have made great progress.”
This is Eknath writing about how the mind naturally wanders during mediation. Wander might be too kind a phrase. Utterly restless is probably more accurate.
Once I started trying to meditate I found this immediately true: just as soon as I seem to focus, my mind is off again thinking of a phone call to make or a catchy song lyric.
I remember Mr Miyagi telling the karate kid to first still his mind then he could start learning karate. Still his mind? Piece of cake. Let me be the karate kid. That’s what I thought then anyways.
Not any more. But the upside of a restless mind is that there are countless moments in the day that I can use to practice taming it: listening intently to my wife or a colleague at work; seeing how long I can keep my focus on something simple like washing the dishes; trying to see if I can’t actually taste my lunch as I eat it. Opportunities for practicing are everywhere, so I can’t say that I don’t have the chance to get started training my mind.
Eknath goes on to say that even a little of this mental discipline goes a long way. I agree. Even though I’ve only made slow progress, as I’ve become better at directing my attention I’ve seen a large improvement in my concentration and peace of mind.