Understanding and learning to quiet the mind is the most important thing we can do in our lives.
I discuss several examples and stories that can help us understand and appreciate the mind’s perspective.
I want to start with this concept of a well-frog. A well frog is a frog that is born as a tadpole in a well, becomes an adult there, lives there and then dies in the well. The entire life of the well frog is spent in the well.
Imagining the Ocean
All the frog knows is his well. If you talk to the frog about the concept of an ocean, the frog has no inkling. He has no understanding about the magnitude, the scale of an ocean. He’s going to take his well and multiply it a 100 times or a thousand times and say, I bet this is how big the ocean is, but he really can never fathom the ocean in its entirety. It’s just not possible for the well frog.
Keep the well frog in context, I’ll share a story and then we’ll connect the concept of a well frog and how it applies to us.
Fisher Woman Story
In ancient India, there was a king who was going down the marketplace. He sees this old woman selling dried fish on the side. She was old. She looked poor. She had a little basket with fish, and she was trying to find customers for her fish. The king decided the good deed for that day would be to invite that woman back to the palace, let her enjoy the luxuries, and treat her like a royal guest.
He also liked listening from his courtiers how great a king he was, how generous a king he was. He invites the woman and appoints caretakers. They make sure she has the finest meals, there is entertainment for her, and then they retire her to a magnificent bedroom. The room is 10 times her little hut with a fabulous bed and fine linens and pots with flower petals in them, and there is a maid who fans over her the entire night so she can be comfortable and experiences the royal life.
The next morning, the king invites the woman to court where he meets with all his courtiers. When she walks in, the king asks her, “Did you have the best night of your life? Was it fabulous?”
He expects her to say, “Oh, yes, this was mind-boggling. My God, what an experience! I could never have imagined this luxury. I had an incredible time. You are such a generous king. You are nothing but God to us. You’re the kindest king on Earth.”
Instead, she said, “It was the most horrible night of my life. I could not sleep a wink.”
The king said, “Excuse me! Was the bed not comfortable? I will hang the caretaker. Where is he? Find him, call him right now.”
She waved her hands and said, “No, no, no, the bed was fine. There was nothing wrong with the bed, nothing wrong with the maid. I could not sleep because in my hut when I sleep, I have the basket of fish next to me, and without that smell, I can’t sleep.”
The king, of course, was irritated and so sarcastically, in a condescending tone, he said, “You’re used to the smell of rotten fish. That is why you could not enjoy?”
She replied in a sheepish tone, “Yes, your Majesty, I need my fish to sleep.”
This is an incredible story because for that old woman, that is her life, fish is her life. She feels comfortable, she feels at home with that smell of fish.
Fisher Woman’s Well
The king was upset because he lost an opportunity to show himself off in front of his courtiers. He dismisses her. Once she was gone, as he thought about the whole incident, he realized, just like the well-frog, the hut, the stinky fish is her well, and that’s what she likes. She’s not interested in anything else. That is what she’s used to. You could say she’s trapped in it, but that’s what where she wants to live.
The King’s Well
Then a thought crossed his mind. Her well is the hurt and the stinky fish, his well is the palace, and his kingdom and his notion of being a king. He realizes he’s caught in his own well as much as she is caught in hers. The other point was, even though his palace had the finest luxuries, she’s not able to benefit from it because she’s so caught up in her life.
Search for the Meaning of Life
The king realizes he has not experienced what is out there. He’s caught up in his kingdom. He needs to go out and explore what life is about because he’s living in his palace, he’s living in his luxuries, but doesn’t know what he’s missing out. He leaves the palace in the search for meaning for life.
We Are Living in a Well Too
Most of us in this world, most of the population of the seven billion on earth is living in its own well. What is this well? We don’t have a physical barrier. It is the well of our own mind. The well of our own experiences.
Where are all the experiences stored? They are stored in our own mind. We live in our own mind. Because we have lived since birth within the confines of our own mind, we take it to be the entirety of what exists. And we, like the well-frog, have no concept of the ocean out there. We cannot comprehend it even if we try. We project it based on our (limited) experiences.
Skewed Understanding of God
Even when we think about God, we project God based on our limited experience and thoughts. As the saying goes, we see God in the image of man, which is probably a very skewed perspective and superficial at best.
Stress and Anxiety
We all face stress and anxiety in life. However, all our stress and anxiety, is in the context of our mind. It is regarding the well of our mind. If we find the ocean, then whatever pertains to the well will be immaterial.
Finding the Perfect Life
We are all searching for this perfect life. We want the perfect boss, we want the perfect spouse, we want the perfect kids, we want the perfect bank balance.
We are looking for perfection. There is no perfection because the problem is when we get to a state where everything is perfect, then you go, oh, this is nice, but I’m bored now, I want some adventure in life.
Changing the Focus
We’re all like the fisher woman. We love the smell of our stinky fish and even though we have an opportunity to be in the palace we’re not able to take benefit. The fisher woman’s story is a powerful reminder for us.
The aspects of life we are so consumed with in our daily lives may be just a small part of what we should be focused on. We spend all our time trying to please the mind — trying to make the well comfortable. Where we spend a bulk of our time is perhaps where we shouldn’t spend our time. Our life should not be about the well, it should be about the ocean.
Quieting the Mind
Nothing will have a bigger impact on your life than quieting your mind.
I could give you a billion dollars, I could make you president of the country, I could give you a perfect body, I could give you immortality, even if I could do those things, none of them will have as big an impact on your life as quieting your mind.
Finding the Ocean
Where is the ocean? We’re not going to drive down to coast in search of the ocean. What is this metaphorical ocean and how can it be accessed?
Simple, Powerful Spiritual Statement
I share with you a simple statement, but it is easily the most valuable statement you could ever hear. More valuable than hearing statements such as — You are born; You are husband and wife; You have a son/daughter; You are hired in your first job; Here are the keys to your first car/house.
Nothing can be more valuable for you to hear —
“Quiet Your Hungry Mind, Let Your Happy Soul Shine.”
This simple statement is the Ultimate purpose of life. When we quiet the mind the soul automatically and naturally shines and becomes self-evident.
It’s only when you learn to quiet your mind are you going to be exposed to the ocean of peace within. That is when your life will change in a way that you cannot imagine.
The mind is always hungry, it’s always seeking, never satisfied. Like a monkey, the mind is restless, even if it has everything, it’s always seeking. That is the nature of the mind.
All of us, as long as we are living, have the life-force in us. The experience of that life force, it’s the most powerful thing that can happen to you ever.
Your bosom fills with infinite bliss when you experience your own life-energy. There is an ocean of peace within every one of us — we access it when we experience our own souls.
Journey from the Mind to the Soul
Life’s most important journey is from the hungry mind to the happy soul. You must begin that journey by quieting your mind.
Every human being on planet Earth regardless of whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or a Buddhist, whether you believe in God, has access to the ocean of peace within.
If you do not access this ocean and do not benefit from that ocean, there is nothing wrong in that, but you would be missing out on life’s most amazing gift. You would be living in your hut with the stinky fish and not enjoying the palace.
When there is a dense fog, even a towering skyline is not visible. When the fog lifts the buildings become automatically visible. The buildings, of course, had not gone anywhere, they were always there, but were hidden by the fog.
Similarly, when the fog of the mind lifts the soul automatically becomes visible. The soul shines through when the mind becomes completely quiet. You do not have to prod the soul, you do not have call on it, once the fog lifts, just like the buildings, the soul has no choice but to become visible.
Quiet Your Mind
Quieting your mind is the key for you to access your ocean of peace within.
To appreciate what you are saying, you have to actually experience it, that’s the challenge, right?
Yes, it has to be experienced for people to appreciate it because otherwise its theoretical.
It’s the same as someone who has been to San Francisco but did not bring any pictures. No matter how well he or she describes San Francisco, we can never get the complete experience until we go there. Any description and any imagination will be superficial at best and sometimes even dead wrong. To know San Francisco, you will have to experience it for your own self.
Is there a guarantee, or a proof that the ocean of peace exists within?
How can we be sure there is an infinite ocean of peace within us? If we examine ourselves, if we look in the mirror, there is going to be no sign of this ocean.
You may not have exercised much to develop muscles, so, if you look in the mirror it will be difficult to see or even imagine having muscles. But we know this for sure, if you go to the gym and exercise regularly there will come a time when your muscles will develop and be visible when you look in the mirror.
If you go to the gym and look at a bodybuilder, it will be extremely hard to imagine having a body like that, but that potential exists. It took the bodybuilder many years of hard work to develop his or her body. If you exercise you will begin to see glimpses of your body building muscles.
There is immense peace within us. We see glimpses of it often. When we are in a church all by ourselves, when the mind is quiet, we experience that sliver of peace. When we are in a temple, singing a religious song, lost in the divine dance, we experience a glimmer of peace. When we are in nature, when we visit a place like the Grand Canyon and are there alone, we experience moments of quietude.
These moments of stillness are markers. It is a reminder to you that there is something worth investigating and pursuing.
We experience glimmers of peace on an irregular basis. If we develop ourselves where we experience our inner-peace on a regular basis it will change our lives. When you begin the practice of meditation, after some time, you will begin to feel signs of peace in you. It is the most beautiful thing.
It is in your Possession
You have in your possession this infinite and ultimate gift. No one can give it to you, no one can take it away from you. The ocean of peace within is ordained by your DNA. It is the Universe’s and life’s biggest gift to you.
My purpose is to remind you that you have that capability to experience the infinite. You already have it.
The question is, are you going to take the steps to begin to explore that and begin to experience the peace within. Are you going to form a habit of “Being peace?” Will it become a part of your personality and your perspective on life?
Is the “well” mental or physical, or a combination? Should we experience other cultures?
The well is not physical, it is mental.
If you experience other cultures it helps you diversify your thinking. In addition, it gives you a break from your stress and the confines of your daily life. So, visiting other cultures certainly gives you a reprieve, it’s helpful in that sense. However, even when I am on vacation, I am still within the confines of my mind.
The ultimate break-through though is piercing the bubble of your own mind. We are living in our mind’s bubble. My mind gives me my identity, a sense of my relationships, my assets, my accomplishments, my disappointments. It is all a web weaved by my mind.
Our mind is a sticky bubble, so it is very difficult to poke or pierce it. The best way to counter the bubble is to shrink it to nothing.
The way to collapse the bubble on to itself is to quiet the mind. When I quiet the mind, when I’m completely still, when I am thoughtless, then all my stress, all my anxiety dissolves.
Stress and anxiety manifest in two forms. First, it’s thoughts: I’m worried, I don’t like my boss, I’m having relationship problems. Second, its anxiety buried in the subconscious. It’s the memory of all of the things we have gone through.
When you become thoughtless, there is no thought about stress and anxiety. There is no dependence on memory. When you’re completely still, you forget your own identity.
If you forget your identity, then there is no recollection of all the problems. All of that just dissolves, at least for the duration of the time you are thoughtless. When you return to the thinking state, the problems still exist, but their potency to trouble you reduces. Their hold on you will be lesser.
The more grateful you feel, the more peaceful your mind feels. The higher your expectations the more disturbed your mind is.
When we don’t have gratitude we constantly complain. I wish I had a better car; my house was better. If we had more gratitude, if we looked at other people who have lesser than us, then it would calm us. Thoughts of anger, regret, jealousy are far more energetic in stirring us up. Good thoughts make it easier for us to calm down.
Gratitude is very helpful, but I want to make sure I underscore this point. Whether your thoughts are good or bad, they’re still thoughts. Quieting your mind means reaching the state of zero thoughts.
A pastor could be serving the Lord and the congregation. He or she could spend all their time working hard and thinking about how to help people. Those are good deeds and good thoughts. But they are still thoughts. That pastor will do great work for the world and be blessed. But that pastor will still not experience the ocean of peace within, because the only way to get there is by having zero thoughts.
When we discuss quieting your mind, make no mistake, the idea is to get to thoughtlessness.
In Tai chi, the repetitious moves help you calm down. By the end of it, you are not doing Tai chi, Tai chi is doing you. Some people can monitor their thoughts during meditation and disengage from bad thoughts. But your point is the next step beyond recognizing good thoughts. It is about quieting the mind.
Yes, the idea is about quieting the mind, to get to the state where you’re thoughtless. Meditation is not something you do, it happens to us. Just as you cannot say I am floating, that is not an accurate way of describing it. You cannot float. You can lie still on water and then water because of its buoyancy floats you. To say I am floating is taking too much credit.
It’s the same thing with meditation. You can say, I will be still and peaceful, and then meditation happens to you.
Your Life Will Change
It may take time, it may be less obvious at the beginning, but over time you will begin to observe yourself and recognize, I was getting agitated with life at this level of frequency, and now the frequency and intensity of my agitations and frustrations are coming down. That frequency will become lesser and lesser.
It is similar to when you go to the gym and exercise. You’ll find you’re able to bend a little better, you become a little more flexible, you become a little stronger. It’s not as if you can go lift 300 pounds immediately. Don’t do that, it will break your back, but you’ll be able to lift that can of milk or a couple of them without throwing your back. So, learning to become peaceful will begin to change your life slowly but surely.
King — Boatman Story
Let me share a story in conclusion.
There was an ancient, democratic city. The people selected a king or queen every five years using a raffle. Someone would win the jackpot to be the monarch for the next five years and live the lavish life. Rule the kingdom and enjoy the powers and pleasures of being royalty.
It came with one caveat. They had term limits and had an interesting way of enforcing the term limits. At the end of the five years the king or queen would be taken across the river to an island full of wild animals, which meant that he or she would be eaten alive.
Being elected to be king/queen was the biggest jackpot. It was like winning the mega ball lottery. Everyone aspired and obsessed about winning the raffle.
One year a very wise man won the lottery. He was a good man, he ruled nicely. People were happy.
At the end of five years everybody gathered outside the palace because it was time for the king to come down, and a new king to go in. The wise man opened the doors and walked down the palace stairs. He was jovial. He was happy, he thanked everyone.
Then the boatman started taking him across the river. It was a wide river. When the boat reached halfway, the boatman asked, “My king, are you okay? I mean, are you… is everything okay with your mental balance?”
The king replied, “Yeah, I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
The boatman said, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. By the time I reach this point of the river, the other six monarchs I brought, they were so fearful of the animals waiting for them, they try to jump off into the river. But the contract says, they must be delivered to the island, so I had to tie them up. They all cried and begged for mercy. But you have done no such thing. Have you forgotten? Did you read the contract, the fine print? Or have you lost your mind?”
The King said, “No, I’m fine, I’m perfectly fine. You don’t have to tie me up.” He added, “Our citizens are so obsessed with becoming king, when they become king, they focus on enjoying that life they forget this day will come. They’re so obsessed. I was never obsessed, I knew my time would be up. I knew it was going to be five years of fabulous life, but I knew this day would come.”
The boatman said, “No wonder you are the wise man. What you’re saying is that in life we should not be obsessed. We should be aware of the big picture.”
The king said, “Yes, absolutely, we have to be aware of the big picture, and that is why I have constructed a palace. I have killed all the animals on the island. My family is already there waiting for me. So, would you stop talking and hurry up, please.”
We are all living life, enjoying what we have right now, not recognizing we are caught up in our life and obsessed with out stinky fish. We need to be building a palace across the river. We need to work toward experiencing the ocean of peace within.
At your core you are peace. Be who you are. Be peace. Be peace…
— By Ravi Kathuria, Author, “Happy Soul. Hungry Mind.”
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