2021-02-26 Mindfulness of Breathing (42) Step 10 Delighting the Mind
5:36PM Feb 26, 2021
Today, we're going to touch into the tenth step of 'ānāpānasati': "Breathing in, one delights the mind. Breathing out, one delights the mind." The word mind, 'citta,' appears in steps eight, nine and ten. In step eight, it's "calming the activities of the mind." In step nine, it's "experiencing the mind." In step ten, it's "delighting the mind." And so there's delight.
The Pali word I'm translating as 'delight' can sometimes be translated as 'pleasing' the mind, or 'satisfying' the mind. Rather than thinking of it as an active verb – what we're doing – we might understand it as recognizing or allowing for a certain sense of deep satisfaction and pleasure, a deep sense of gladness in the mind. That comes from meditation practice. And there are a number of ways of understanding and experiencing it.
One of the classic ones from the tradition is: "Finally, the mind is no longer out of control." Or to say differently: "Finally, the mind doesn't have a mind of its own." We're not being led around. We're not jumping around, agitated, thrashing about – in the mind – with our thoughts. But we feel as if we've really come home.
We're settled. We're back in ourselves. The mind is under control. The mind is not just doing whatever it wants – wandering around, picking up or chasing thoughts. But we're really settled here. We've come home to ourselves. The mind is settled and present.
The word often used in the ancient tradition is that the mind is now tamed. I suspect that a lot of us here in the modern West don't really like the idea of taming ourselves. Having a tame mind doesn't really inspire us. But the opposite of that – having a mind that's no longer untamed or out of control – may feel better. We can appreciate and value that.
One of the metaphors for an out of control mind in the ancient world is that of a fish thrashing about in a very shallow puddle of water. It's just flopping around. Sometimes, the mind just flaps around, does its thing. It jumps around, chasing one thought after the other. And we have no control, no say over the mind.
But, if we get mental activities to quiet down, to settle, we can feel that we're not going to wander off into the past or future anymore. We're not going to be lost in thought anymore. We're now really here. We have a sense that it's deeply satisfying to start feeling connected here – at peace here and settled here.
There's the satisfaction of not having the agitation – the energies of the mind, jumping around, moving out, going here and there. It allows the mind to start becoming peaceful and being at deep rest. It's just here. It can feel very solid and centered. Here.
The mind is in the present moment. Any tendency to leave the present moment, by going off into thought, doesn't go very far. It hardly goes anywhere at all. It's like a rubber band attached to our thoughts. They get pulled right back to the present. Or we just say: "No, why bother? It's really good to be here."
This movement of experiencing the mind in this way is a movement toward wholeness – to becoming more whole – that's only possible if we're in the present moment. By definition, if we're lost in the future, or caught up in future or past concerns, we're partial. We're involved in and focussed on the future, and we're not really connected to what's here.
Or, if we're involved in fantasy – no matter how wonderful the fantasy might feel – it's only a small part of who we are. There's a disconnect – even a dissociation in its extreme forms – with our body, mind states, and what's really happening right here.
As we start settling, and are able to be here in the present moment in a rooted and grounded way, it begins to allow for a process of feeling whole. A lot of the sharp boundaries between time and space begin to fall away: the sharp boundaries between the body and the mind, or between the edges of our body and the space around us. The sense of wholeness starts moving into what some people would call altered states of consciousness, or altered states of mind.
But that suggests, somehow, that it's not normal. Perhaps it's not so normal because we don't go into those states very much. But in meditation, we start feeling settled in the present moment, and open up to a feeling of the wholeness of being here. It starts feeling like: "'This' is natural. This is a homecoming. This is what should be ordinary."
Ordinary states of consciousness, ordinary states of mind, are fragmented, narrow, limited, bounded, and frazzled. They might be familiar, and in that sense, comfortable for us. But when we really experience a feeling of settled wholeness, we say: "'This' is health. This is a healthy mind." It's the altered states of mind – our daily mind states – that are altered, strange, and preoccupied. But a settled feeling of wholeness feels good.
Some people, when they meditate, are struggling with a distractible mind. They're caught in the hindrances. They're caught up in desires and aversions of all kinds. And, they're coming back, coming back, and working with that.
To finally have the hindrances quiet down and the mind able to, finally, be present, it's as if the mind has found itself. It provides deep satisfaction, delight, joy, and pleasure. This is what we're talking about in this tenth step of "delighting the mind," "pleasing the mind," or "gladdening the mind." We're allowing the mind to feel deep satisfaction.
I offer all these different words because different people will find that different words will speak to what their own flavor of this might be in meditation. But the important thing here is that we're allowed to feel the goodness of that. We're allowed to feel the delight, the joy, the satisfaction of it.
Certainly not to cling to, hold onto, or congratulate ourself for in some egotistical way. But we're not supposed to ignore the joy, happiness, well-being, pleasure, or satisfaction of meditation. In fact, feeling that and experiencing that, allows us to continue the process of settling in, quieting the mind, and expanding a sense of wholeness as we move into it.
And in doing so, we open up to states of mind, qualities of mind that are coterminous with – intimately part of – a feeling of wholeness, broad awareness, centeredness, clear knowing, and clarity of mind. These are considered to be a form of wealth. In fact, for the Buddha, the greatest wealth a person can have is the wealth that comes from a settled, clear, and open mind: This sense of wholeness.
The Seven Factors of Awakening I mentioned yesterday: mindfulness, investigation, effort, joy, tranquility, samādhi, and equanimity – these all belong to the realm of settled wholeness that comes as the awareness and attention get full and complete. It isn't as if we're losing something by settling down, letting go of the distracted mind, and really being present. We gain so much. It's called "inner wealth."
If you want to be wealthy, develop your inner life. It qualifies as wealth because it provides some of the greatest pleasure, safety, and happiness that's available to us. And, certainly, it provides a greater happiness than any material wealth can ever produce.
So, "Breathing in, delighting the mind. Breathing out, delighting the mind."
You can't do it too early. You can't just sit down and decide to do that. It comes when meditation has really settled down. Remember, it's not worth talking about the tenth stage of the sixteen stages.
But, when you start feeling inklings of this kind of delight, satisfaction, pleasure – being pleased by what's happening – and deep satisfaction, open to it. Allow for it. Let it spread widely and broadly throughout your being. Be nourished by it. Let it be something you appreciate and enjoy.
And that sets the stage for the next step of ānāpānasati – a practice we won't do for a couple of weeks – which is samādhi, the unification of the mind, concentration of the mind.
Until then, we're going to spend next week with the Seven Factors of Awakening. Maybe this will support experiencing the mind, and delight in the mind, to spend some time with these Seven Factors of Awakening. They'll also serve the eleventh step of 'ānāpānasati': 'samādhi.'