Mental Cultivation


“In the final analysis, the hope of every person is simply peace of mind.”

– The Dalai Lama

The late wise man and warrior Nelson Mandela said, “The issues that agitate humanity today call for trained minds, and the man who is deficient in this respect is crippled, because he is not in possession of the tools necessary to ensure success in life.”


One of the best meditative practices is called mindfulness. It is not a religious practice but rather it is more of a spiritual practice and has more to do with actual experience, not mere beliefs or religious dogma. Mindfulness teaches you how to be present in the midst of daily life by basically teaching you how to be more aware of what’s going on inside your physical sensations, emotions and thoughts.  The ongoing daily practice of mindfulness can help to deal with difficult emotions such as anxiety and depression as well as helping us to be less reactive and more in the present moment.

In his book “The Art of Happiness”, the Dalai Lama says that his meditation practice embraces the systematic training of the mind to cultivate happiness. A genuine inner transformation is possible by focusing on positive states of mind due to the very structure and functioning of the brain.

Mindfulness is a clear and awakened state of mind that is fully aware of moment-to-moment experiences. The development of the state of mind called mindfulness gives rise to mental calmness and deepens self-awareness. It is about being in connection with the direct experience of the present moment. This ongoing state contributes to overall well-being and strengthens the warrior’s internal resources to manage difficult life experiences. One of its basic tenets is to allow thoughts to come and go without allowing the mind to latch onto one or the other and lapse into one’s usual tendencies.

From very early on in life our minds learn to interpret events as good or bad, right or wrong, etc. In other words, people tend to react to events in a habitual way and they deal with each event exactly the same way they have dealt with something similar previously.  Mindfulness allows one to become aware of that habitual process and enables one to respond in the here and the now.

By self-examination and inward focus one can discover that all states of consciousness are the result of the execution of an option. They are not unchangeable certainties determined by uncontrollable factors. This can be discovered by examining the nature of the mind and the realisation that one is not really ruled by the mind at all. What the mind reveals is an endless stream of options, all disguised as memories, fantasies, fears, concepts, etc. To get free of the domination of the mind it is only necessary to realise that its parade of subjects are merely arbitrary selections wending their way across the screen of the mind.

One is not ‘forced’ to feel resentment by a negative memory, nor does one have to buy into a fearful thought about the future, as these are only options. The mind is like a television set running its various channels for selection and one is not required to follow any particular temptation of thought. One can fall into the temptation of feeling sorry for oneself, or angry, or worried. The secret attraction of all these options is that they offer an inner payoff or a secret satisfaction, which is the source of the attraction of the mind’s thoughts.

If these payoffs are refused, it will be discovered that at all times, behind the thought screen, there is a silent, invisible, thought-free space of joy. This is an option that is always available. But to be experienced it has to be chosen above all other tempting options. The source of joy is always present, always available, and not dependent on circumstances. There are only two obstacles: a) the ignorance that it is always available and present and b) valuing something other than peace and joy above that natural state because of the secret pleasure of the payoff.

The untrained mind is like that of a child and needs tobe taken care of like a child. Before acting on what the child says we have to analyse whether or not it is worthwhile. It is dangerous to do everything the mind says as doing so can destroy us instead of bringing peace and happiness and can bring great harm, not only to us, but also to others. Therefore by using our wisdom and intelligence we need to analyse the validity of what our mind tells us to do to see whether it’s beneficial or harmful. With that wisdom and intelligence, we can then direct or guide our mind; in other words, we can protect ourselves.

In this description of Mindfulness – as distinct from the practice or tool of Meditation – it is a way of being in the world. Living mindfully is living consciously day-to-day and living in a state of raised consciousness, knowing how our minds have been programmed to work, and then making healthy, good long-term decisions about how we choose to live in the world and have all of our actions and reactions reflect those choices. This includes mindful eating, mindful relationships, mindful speech, mindful livelihood, etc.

There is often confusion because focusing the attention on the breath can be both a basic meditation and a mindfulness meditation. The distinction lies in the intention: if you’re focusing on the breath as a spiritual practice to realise your inner divinity, then it is a practice of meditation, more in line with the Hindu lineage of meditation.  If you’re focusing on your breath to try to harness and train the mind and observe any thoughts that arise non-judgmentally then that is mindfulness Meditation, more in line with the Buddhist lineage but it also has parallels in Hinduism.

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