Taming the Mind

By Tergar Meditation Community • 3 min read


Monkey at large

How much influence do you have over the state of your mind? In all likelihood, you feel you have next to none. You don’t wish to get angry, but you get angry. You have zero desire to get depressed or tense or sad, but all of that happens anyway. This is the infamous “monkey mind.” Thus dubbed because, were you to bring a wild monkey home and let it roam freely, it would create problems where previously there were no problems. It would create messes where there had been none. It would pull down all the decorations, tear up the furniture, and scatter sofa cushions all over the place. All this, despite the fact that, actually, the monkey could just as easily come in, sit on a comfortable chair, and relax. If it were hungry, it could have a snack. The monkey really wouldn’t need to do anything.

The weak chin conundrum

The mind is the same, habitually creating problems out of nothing. The mind gets thrown off-balance by minor problems; it loves to take a tiny issue and blow it up into something the size of a blimp, creating more and more tension. We get bound up in our fixations, and we don’t know how to relax. At work, we’re so focused on the small annoyances that come with our job that we completely miss the big-picture problems. When we’re studying, we find it hard to absorb new information, as there’s no space in our minds for it. While driving, we’re in a rush; our attention is on who is in front of us and how we can get past them, even though that makes it easy for us to get into accidents (wild monkeys!). Our fixations are legion. For example, many of us get really uptight about the way we look. With a rigidly fixated mind, you gaze into the mirror, and guess what? Even if your face is utterly flawless, if you stare at it with this attitude for long enough, eventually you’ll find a flaw. You’ll start obsessing over the idea that, for instance, you have a weak chin. The concept of this “flaw” comes to occupy more and more space in your mind. After about a month, you’re looking at your reflection and thinking, “I barely have a chin at all,” even though that’s not the case. Your mind has created a problem out of thin air — and it’s one hundred percent sure that it’s right!  Perceptions are created by the mind, and the mind believes those projections, so it becomes a vicious cycle. Understanding this process is known as “precise knowledge,” or prajna.


“All that we are looking for in life — all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind — is right here in the present moment.”

– Mingyur Rinpoche –

Calm abiding

The Tibetan phrase for calm abiding meditation is shi-ne. Shi means “to pacify,” referring to the taming of the mind. Ne means “to abide,” or “to rest,” implying that the mind can settle. When you practice calm abiding, or shamatha, your mind becomes more pliable and flexible and comes to rest naturally on its own. Think of it in terms of treating illness. You can take medicine for a specific illness, but a medicine intended to target, say, your lungs might inadvertently harm your liver and kidneys. And the medicine doesn’t bring forth the natural strength and potency that’s available in your body in the first place. On the other hand, if you exercise and eat nutritious food, that brings forth the natural strength in your body, so that illness can be overcome, and future illnesses are prevented from arising. This is the reason for practicing shamatha, calm abiding: to bring forth the potency and strength that is in the mind to begin with. Similarly, depending upon external causes in order to feel peaceful is like taking medicine to quickly relieve an illness. If you rely on playing video games or jogging to self-soothe, for instance, that’s going to be okay until the gaming console breaks or you twist your ankle. By practicing meditation, you can awaken an inner peace that does not depend on external causes and conditions.


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More Resources:

Keep Calm When Your Mind Is Wild

In this video teaching, Mingyur Rinpoche will talk about how we can find rest in our mind’s natural awareness — under any circumstances.

Joy of Living Online Training

Theory and practice of meditation, step-by-step.

Learn meditation under the skillful guidance of world-renowned teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche at your own pace.

About the Author

By Tergar Meditation Community Team

Tergar Meditation Community supports individuals, practice groups, and meditation communities around the world in learning to live with awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of our guiding teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, our online and in-person programs are accessible to people of all cultures and faiths, and support a lifelong path toward the application of these principles in everyday life.

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