Training the elephant of the mind

from The Practice of Living Awareness and Spirit Fire

shamathaIn classical Asian meditation training, the mind is equated with an elephant. Seemingly large and uncontrolled, it can wreck havoc inside us when we sit to meditate.

At essence, meditation has three goals: to invert the mind’s tendencies from the external for its frames of reference to the internal, to invite the inherent quality of light of mind to the surface, and to encourage the equally innate qualities of tranquility and spaciousness of mind and awareness. All these require that we train the elephant of the meditationally untrained mind. Why would we want to bother?

  • Because the external world and its influences fluctuate incessantly, thus there cannot be peace of mind or lasting contentment.
  • Because our mind is capable of illumination in a wattage more radiant than the sun, but our common use of the mind is like using a flash light.
  • Because contentment, well-being, and peace of mind were the overriding constant before our current modern lifestyle. Materialism and addictions, entitlement and instant gratification are a by-product of consumerism and the capitalist model. This is not how people have experienced life as the norm for thousands of years. Therefore, like removing caffeine from one’s diet, the benefits of training the mind become obvious and palpable very quickly.

Webcast: Training the elephant of the mind

Podcast: Training the elephant of the mind

About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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7 Responses to Training the elephant of the mind

  1. what a clear explanation of the benefits of meditation! I also enjoyed your perspective on the values of older societies. makes me think ……



    • Yes. Certainly, there has always been the basic stresses of survival – true to the times and culture. But what we live now is a result of being told that we have to “have” in order to be happy. Before, in order to “have”, one had to create. This meant an appreciation of what one had because its value was measured by how much was sacrificed or put into having it, creating it, or choosing it over something else equally vital and necessary. That is not the case modernly. I think some measure of our collective stress comes from an innate knowing that this is backward and vampiristic. Gratefully, meditation and clear mindedness help to clear away these wrong views.


  2. aaremo says:

    Excellent post, after a very rocky month last month I realised the necessity of keeping that elephant in check or being trampled by it! And so I’ve increased meditation time and been reaping the benefits. Should be something we are all taught in school, a core human necessity 🙂


    • agreed. In truth, it used to be even though it was not called meditation. Yet young minds were brought up wondering, contemplating, and musing. Deleting the arts from US schools (maybe not in the UK) was a significant blow to mindfulness and mind training.


      • aaremo says:

        Yes, it’s vital to our development as human beings I think. When you say the arts were deleted from US schools, what kind of subjects do you mean? That’s terrible. It’s more needed than ever


        • Unfortunately, during the Bush administration funding for public services was decreased and increased for the military and the wars. They have not been corrected adequately. Thus reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, along with standardized tests to “assure” proficiency were deemed more important than the humanities, arts, and physical exercise. Sad.


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