Meditation is mostly a mental journey that looks at your mental preparedness as an individual. In this journey, the process seeks to build your resilience, all while teaching you how to counter your challenges with an open mind. In order to counter problems as they appear in your life, it is vital to find an appropriate balance, and the best way to do this is through meditation. here’s a space, a gap between this clingy thought, that fixation, and the arising of the next episode of being distracted, getting caught up. With time and practice, we realize that the space, the gaps, are much bigger than we ever imagined. At first, we experience them as short breaks between thoughts. But as we pay attention, the gaps become bigger and bigger until we see that the entire background of our mind is spacious—it’s a big gap! And all the thoughts that come, however many there may be, cannot obscure the gap.
It’s like when you watch a scary movie at the cinema—you lose track of the screen and you forget that there’s a projector, that you’re in a theatre, and that there are other people around. You get tunnel vision about what’s happening. And the same thing goes on in our lives. We get tunnel vision that restricts what we see. By training in mindfulness and awareness, we learn to pull back and recognize that we are in a theatre: our experience is just play-acting, it’s just a thought, a moment. This makes us aware of the spacious mind: everything is happening in a big space. But in the beginning, we aren’t aware of that.
We see how the mind is producing thoughts, and realize that awareness of thoughts doesn’t have to take us away from being present. This is where the meditation becomes more about awareness, where mindfulness becomes awareness. Mindfulness and awareness are not separate: they work together. Each time we’re aware of something—a thought, an object—we become more aware of the space around it. Think about it! Everything happens in space!
Before we started practicing, our ordinary way of functioning was to focus intently on one thing, then another, and so on. There was virtually no sense of the space around us or the relationships between things. But now, as we practice being mindful and letting go, we’re becoming much more aware of the background. And naturally, whatever comes in the foreground is less problematic for us. We don’t have to get rid of thoughts because we see that they just come and go, and space is always there. This is how the gap functions in mindfulness, how it becomes an awareness of the great spaciousness of everything—of the mind and the world outside.
I believe that after you’ve started on this journey and have reached the point where you recognize the spacious quality of your mind behind all the thoughts, there will be a great sense of relief! But first, there might be an initial twinge of fear because getting caught up in thoughts is our default mode—it’s what we presume we’re comfortable with. We’re used to this monkey mind jumping around, flitting here, flitting there, creating an incessant internal dialogue, and obsessing about things.
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