Being Present
Choose your language:
Buddha prepares for enlightenment
Buddha prepares for enlightenment
December 2009

A Quiet Mind

Listening to a bell ringing at dusk, one finds that the quietness outside is also inside. Sunrise and sunset are the quietest moments of the day. In those few moments, all things seem attentive to the day as it rises and as it closes. The same rhythm is reflected internally. There are few times when the mind is quiet. As one wakes in bed, for one or two moments, the mind has nothing to say, and again as one goes to sleep, there is a fleeting moment when the mind is quiet and reposed. For these few moments, one’s mind is clear.


Otherwise, one’s mind is an experience of contradictions. The many I’s of thought, perception and emotion that arise from the human functions are not intended to oppose each other, but cannot peaceably share the same space. The I’s cannot be unified, much like warring chieftains who claim the same cultural history but have no form of government. Without presence, the I’s control one’s psychology. One’s thinking becomes unfocused, accidental, or determined by external events. One becomes happy or sad because the I’s anticipate an external event, which then never happens.


Yet the mind can rise above the noisy arena of the I’s and pass into ‘a purer mind with tranquil restoration’. But this facility does not come by itself. It comes from raising one’s awareness, from paying attention to the small moments of one’s day. With a receptive mind, one listens to music, a conversation, incidental sounds, and a state grows that has no opinion or preference, but just quietly is. By listening, one finds silence. One becomes a still calm point in a turning universe. One hears the still small voice of God.
A Buddhist retreat behind broken-mountain temple
In the pure morning, near an old temple,
my winding path, through a sheltered hollow
of boughs and flowers, comes to a Buddhist retreat.
Here birds are alive with mountain-light,
and the mind of man touches peace in a pool,
and a thousand sounds are quietened
by the breathing of a temple-bell.
Chang Jian