Strength Training for the Mind Part 1

Posted by Vibraboard747
Jan 04 2013

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Meditation is the most useful skill you can master. It can bring the mind to the end of suffering, something no other skill can do. But it’s also the most subtle and demanding skill there is. It requires all the mental qualities ordinarily involved in mastering a physical skill mindfulness and alertness, persistence and patience, discipline and ingenuity but to an extraordinary degree. This is why, when you come to meditation, it’s good to reflect on any skills, crafts, or disciplines you’ve already mastered so that you can apply the lessons they’ve taught you to the training of the mind.

As a meditation teacher, I’ve often found it helpful to illustrate my points with analogies drawn from physical skills. And, given the particular range of skills and disciplines currently popular in America, I’ve found that one useful source of analogies is strength training. Meditation is more like a good workout than you might have thought.

The Buddha himself noticed the parallels here. He defined the practice as a path of five strengths: conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. He likened the mind’s ability to beat down its most stubborn thoughts to that of a strong man beating down a weaker man. The agility of a well-trained mind, he said, is like that of a strong man who can easily flex his arm when it’s extended, or extend it when it’s flexed. And he often compared the higher skills of concentration and discernment to the skills of archery, which given the massive bows of ancient India was strength training for the noble warriors of his day. These skills included the ability to shoot great distances, to fire arrows in rapid succession, and to pierce great masses the great mass, here, standing for the mass of ignorance that envelops the untrained mind.

So even if you’ve been pumping great masses instead of piercing them, you’ve been learning some important lessons that will stand you in good stead as a meditator. A few of the more important lessons are these:

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