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The Wandering Mind - Part 3

 In this third part of the article on The Wandering Mind, we discuss the last two methods to bring our mind to stillness.

6. Outflowings to be Abandoned by Removing

The Buddha teaches us to use this method when sensual desire arises (i.e. desire for one of the sensory experiences: a sight, a sound, a touch, a taste, a smell or thinking), or a thought of ill-will or cruelty. In another sutta, MN 20: The Removal of Thoughts, the Buddha teaches us five methods to remove these thoughts.

  • substitution
  • contemplate the danger
  • not give attention
  • calming
  • will power

We start with the first method and only if it doesn't work do we go to the second method and so on.


a) Substitution - We can substitute the opposite of what has arisen

- desire: generosity - ill-will: metta (loving friendliness) - restlessness: serenity practice like the breath - dullness and drowsiness: look at light, splash water on the face, do some exercise - doubt: serenity practice like the breath, talk to a wise teacher

Or, any wholesome meditation object can be substituted for the thought. This could be the breath, body sweeping, reflection on impermanence etc. Reflection on death is good for dullness and drowsiness.

A helpful mantra to use, when our mind flows out to these sensory experiences, is: "It's none of my business!"



b) Reflect on the danger of staying with the thought

We ask ourself, "Where will this lead?" if we stay with the thought.


c) Don't give attention to the thoughts

Close your eyes or look away. Distract yourself by cleaning out a drawer or doing something to pull your mind away


d) Calming the thoughts

The Buddha describes this as a step by step way to still the mind. He gives the example of someone walking fast, asking, "Why am I walking fast?" Then they walk slowly and wonder why. Then they stand still, then sit then lie down.

So we could ask ourself, "Where did this thought start? What triggered it?" Some conditions came together to cause the thought to arise. So if we can change the conditions, the thought will go. We could try auto suggestion: "Calm, calm, calm." We could go for a walk, talk to a friend and once settled, return to sitting meditation on the breath.


e) Will Power

Hopefully we never get to this method. But if we have tried all the other methods and we are about to do something we'll regret, then this is the last ditch effort. The Buddha describes clenching one's teeth together, pushing the tongue against the roof of the mouth and basically "sitting on yourself!" Don't let those bad words escape from our mouth or let our body do some regretful action.


7. Outflowings to be Abandoned by Developing

The first method of abandoning, insight, leads one to realizing stream winning. This seventh method leads one to arahantship, full awakening. It is for abandoning any remaining passions, disturbances, hindrances.

Developing refers to developing the Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Awakening):

  •  mindfulness
  • investigation of Dhammas
  • heroic energy
  • joy
  • tranquility
  • stillness
  • equanimity

Their development is supported by seclusion, dispassion and cessation which ripen in relinquishment. With the complete cutting off of outflowings and the abandonment of the last whiff of a sense of "I am", there is awakening.

Based on a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm on Majjhima Nikaya 2.

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