Slowing Down the Busy Mind

Luang Por Pasanno • June 2013

Even when we live in a monastery, the mind tends toward busyness and proliferation. This is a natural habit of the human mind. We can make ourselves conscious of that—not through a force of will, trying to squelch or annihilate it—but through understanding the mind’s natural habits and the tendencies we carry with us. We can work with them in a skillful way. For instance, the mind tends toward speeding up and gaining momentum. When that happens, we can consciously slow down and pay attention. Sometimes this means physically slowing down, not to the point of irritating everybody around us, but also not getting pulled into a sense that, This is important. There’s not enough time. This has to be done now. When we slow down, we can notice what happens, which is that we see things more clearly.

I’ve ridden in a car up and down Tomki Road to and from the monastery countless times. These last few months I’ve been walking on the road every day. It’s a very different experience than riding in a car. When we ride in a car, we might think we see or know Tomki Road quite well, but because we’re going so fast, we don’t really see things clearly. By slowing down and walking, I’ve been experiencing many more of the nuances and details of the road, and there’s more clarity as well. It’s similar with the mind. We can learn how to slow it down, so that when we’re engaged in activity, we can better attend to what we’re doing. We slow down the impulse of getting swept up in the mind when it’s worried, when it’s proliferating, or simply chattering away. Of course, it’s not necessary for the mind to chatter away like this, but as long as we’re able to distract ourselves with that sort of thing, we feel it’s okay. This is not a great program for a practitioner!

Instead, we encourage ourselves to slow down. In particular, when we’re not engaged with work or duties, we can slow down by using walking and sitting meditation. We consciously slow down by bringing attention and awareness to the nuances of sight, smell, taste, touch, mental objects, and to the nuances of body, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Those things—the six kinds of sense contact and the five aggregates—are what we use to create the sense of self and “me” and to solidify our moods and impressions into habitual tendencies. So we slow down enough to see them clearly. Learning how to slow down is quite simple, and it provides us with many direct and beneficial effects.