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  • John Thomas Dodson

Taming without aggression

Photo by RKTKN on Unsplash
A practice in being gentle with yourself

In spite of your concerted effort to keep the mind on your breathing, the mind will likely wander away. It may go to past experiences and suddenly you find yourself remembering places you've visited, people you met, friends not seen for a long time, a book you read long ago, the taste of food you ate yesterday, and so on. As soon as you notice that your mind is no longer on your breath, mindfully bring it back and anchor it there. However, in a few moments you may be caught up again thinking how to pay your bills, to make a telephone call to your friend, write a letter to someone, do your laundry, buy your groceries, go to a party, plan your next vacation, and so forth. As soon as you notice that the mind is not on your object, bring it back mindfully.

Bhante Gunaratana: Mindfulness in Plain English


Did you notice what is missing in that paragraph? There is no judgment; no self-attack; no self-shaming. The instruction is as soon as you notice your focus wandering away, mindfully bring your attention back to the breath.

This practice is doing more than simply developing concentration. It is also training us in nonviolence. You might take note of where that violence is directed. The practice is cutting through our natural tendency toward self-criticism. We are learning to act gently to others by first becoming gentle with ourselves. There is space for self-correction without making an even bigger problem.

The more we practice mindfulness, the more the depths of wisdom reveal themselves to us. The simple act of returning our attention to the breath becomes a great teaching Taming the wandering mind also undermines our habits toward self-judgment, self-aggression and self-sabotage.

We are learning about how to be at peace with ourselves.

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