The recent NY Times Science section article “When the mind wanders, happiness also strays,” reveals what most meditators discover during their first sitting. It amuses me that scientists needed to interview a half a million people to discover the first and most common insight—that the wandering mind is painful. But now that the obvious is confirmed through science, meditators would be wise to consider again if we are living with the fruit of the insight that we had so long ago.
How strong is your committment to rein in the wandering tendencies of mind? Do you train your mind while driving, showering, listening to conversation, and eating lunch? Are you as diligent in bringing mindfulness to activities as you are when you sit in formal meditation? Are there still wandering thoughts that you habitually indulge?
Why not confirm this study for yourself. Look at the quality of your mind several times everyday this week and notice the degree of happiness you experience when present for the activity that you are doing, and when lost in mental stories. If you discover again that the wandering mind is painful, then rein it in. Make a strong resolve not to indulge in fantasy, worry, expectation, rumination, obsessive planning, or guilty recollections. You can cultivate a wise use of the mind. Prefer the profound and wise presence of heart and mind to the habitual suffering of the wandering mind. Even if it means being present for grief, loneliness, physical pain, or other unpleasant states, mindfulness will bring greater peace and joy than the untamed mind could produce.