If you sweep the patio in November after leaves have fallen, you wouldn’t expect it to stay clean forever. The patio is like the mind. Mindfulness meditation practice can feel like sweeping the mind and clearing away the thoughts strewn about making a big mess.
It’s easy to get caught up in resistance and resentment toward these leaves: “Damn it, I just swept that floor!” Despite our protests, nature has another idea. Nature doesn’t care if we’ve swept the patio or how long it took us to do it. In the same way, the mind has its nature and it doesn’t really care about your agenda. The mind will continue to do what it does: give rise to thoughts. If we expect the mind to stay “swept,” we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Meditation will not “fix you”; it will not change things once and for all. Nothing can do this. Our job is to keep sweeping. Thoughts will continue to come and blow onto your clean-swept patio. Just sweep. No need to ask questions. No need to complain. Keep sweeping. We don’t need to analyze, interpret, or fix the leaves; time after time, we just need to sweep, returning to this moment just as it is, again, again, again.
With continued practice, we can start to recognize the wisdom in not reacting, or if reactions arise (as they sometimes will) of not amplifying them and feeding them.
We can learn to enjoy the coming and going of the leaves—and even of the endless sweeping as well!
–Arnie Kozak, from Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants (Wisdom Publications)