‘To give your sheep or cows a large,
spacious meadow is the way to control them.’
~ Shunryu Suzuki
You might hear a spiritual seeker, or possibly someone who meditates, say, ‘If only I could control my thoughts, stop my thinking, I could find lasting peace and happiness.’
To paraphrase Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, if you want to control your sheep or cows give them a large pasture. If you want to control your thoughts, give them a vast space in which to go through their magical dance of appearing, lingering, and disappearing.
If you give your sheep or cow a large pasture, they will not try to break through the fence to find something to eat or a place to run free. They will be happy having such an expanse of land in which to graze, play, and rest.
Ultimately, there is no need to control your thoughts. In what do they appear? A limited, confined space? No, they appear in the unlimited realm of awareness. We think our thoughts are confined to the brain in our head, appearing in our mind, but if this were true, with the number of thoughts we have over the course of a day, month, year, or lifetime, our brains would explode!
All experiences occur in awareness, in which no limits have ever been found. All things, that is, all objects, that occur in awareness, including thoughts and feelings, have limits. There is nothing that we know that doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and an end. Except for awareness itself, the knowing element in all experience.
We don’t actually ‘know’ awareness, as it has no objective qualities and is therefore unknowable.
But awareness knows itself – knowing knows knowing. And at our core, this is who we are, who we all are. We think that we are a body-mind made up of a cluster of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. And this is true on a relative level, that is, in relationship to other body-minds. But this is how all conflict and unhappiness arise – from the belief that we are separate individuals, who must defend our own particular positions and opinions, which are founded on the false premise that . . . we are separate individuals.
In fact, there are no separate individuals, only unique manifestations of awareness. Set aside your temporary attributes that make up your-body mind, as they are, in the truest sense, not real. Settle into your unshakeable self, that which knows all experience, yet itself is not an experience.
The terms ‘Set aside’ and ‘Settle into’ are a bit misleading. It implies that an action or actions must take place in order to be your, our, unshakable self, which actually takes no effort whatsoever. Think more of a raindrop falling from the sky and melting, dissolving, into the ocean.