The mind seems to quiet when the breath is attended to, but the purpose of attending to the breath is not to quiet the mind. The purpose is to discover what is actually happening. I also know a lot of people who have believed that thought that “I can’t meditate” and have given up. I have also supported a lot of new meditators going through the process of getting started. The misconception that meditation is about “quieting the mind” is one of the major obstacles on the path. This is because when people focus on trying to quiet the mind, which is impossible to make happen, they continually fail and in fact it get worse. When the breath is attended to, the mind naturally quiets because it’s not being fed with attention. But if you start of with trying to quiet the mind, then you’re giving attention to the unquiet mind and you get more of that.

On one level, meditation is really about attention control, if there really was control. When the attention is placed on the breath, the truth of it can be discovered: nobody is breathing. Then the self-illusion collapses and what is revealed is what is always all there is: wholeness.

Ultimately the whole quiet mind thing is a red-herring because what’s ultimately discovered is that freedom is all there is, whether the mind is quiet or not.

P.S. There’s often also a misconception about watching the breath. The belief is that the attention must be controlled, but there’s no control. When the process of watching the breath is attended to, sometimes the attention seems to be on the breath and sometimes it seems to be elsewhere. The degree to which the process is attended to without trying to control it, seems to be the degree to which the attention naturally and curiously settles on the breath. Many new meditators struggle with the attention, believing that they are failing when the mind wanders. A wandering mind is a natural part of the process, and it can only be witnessed and not controlled anyway.

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An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

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