Last weekend I visited a friend who has a wonderful selection of fridge magnets. One of them made me laugh, but also stop and think. It said: “seen it all, done it all, can’t remember most of it”. It‘s so true – when I look back at the past year, or even month, my memory is like a leaky boat. That’s one reason I take so many photos, but unless they’re selfies, I may not even remember who all the people are.
The Buddha would argue that all this rushing here and there, the 1000 things to see, do, eat or drink before you die, is missing the point. The view may be magnificent, but it can only be seen through the lens of the mind, and if the mind is cloudy or biased in any way, that’s all we get. It’s like experiencing the world through the equivalent of a tinted or dirty pair of sunglasses.
The practice of mindfulness meditation offers one method for experiencing the world with more spaciousness and clarity. Through finding some quiet time at the beginning or end of each day, and learning to take pauses when we find ourselves overloaded, it’s possible to regain control of the mind just as if we were grabbing the wheel of a driverless car. The results can be extraordinary. Thousands of people in the UK report lowered levels of stress, better sleep, improved concentration, and happier relationships.
Although there are some first-rate Buddhist meditation teachers, this isn’t a religious trip but a basic human skill. As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said: “Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your own way of thinking”. Let’s pray that each of us can find a moment today to pause and question whether we really need to see and do that extra thing.