Studying Mind Like Film

Apparently sports teams, prior to facing their next opponent, closely watch film of their adversary's past games in order to better understand their tendencies. Doing so allows for the opportunity to develop a more effective game plan that will ultimately allow them to overcome these tendencies, thus winning the match.

If we look at our mind as an opponent, and happiness as the goal of the game, then our "film" is the actual watching of our mind, understanding its tendencies, and then skillfully overcoming these tendencies in order to arrive at happiness.

From my perspective, no greater aim of a meditation practice exists beyond coming to clearly see the patterns of our minds and how these patterns decide whether or not we meet with suffering. Our happiness hinges on whether or not we are aware of what is going on within our own minds, and whether or not we have learned the skills necessary to let go of unhelpful thoughts and cultivate helpful thoughts. In a very real way, happiness is a learned skill.

The mind does an extraordinary job of looking for, finding, and relentlessly focusing on the worst possible thoughts; the worst thing that's happened that day, week, month, year, lifetime. Because thoughts are the forerunner to everything, we then speak and act out of the mental state created by dwelling on these less than happy thoughts. Thus begins the cycle of misery, and will continue on as such until we realize that this process is actually a choice.

Upon careful examination, and with a little bit of experimentation, we realize that these patterns of thought are just patterns; patterns that can be altered over time with continuously applied effort. Using mindfulness as a tool, in any given moment we can become aware of the contents of the mind and consider whether these thoughts are indeed worth repeating. If the answer is "no", we actively work to abandon them by cultivating their opposite. In order to prevent further unhelpful thoughts from arising, we actively work to maintain the helpful thoughts that we've just cultivated. 

But the first step is realizing what we're already doing! So the next time you catch yourself in a "bad mood", consider the contents of your mind:

What are the quality of these thoughts?
Do they match your mood?
What if you let them go?
What if you replace them with the best thought you can think, a thought of loving kindness?

Athletes also spend a lot of time training in a gym at which they fine tune the skills necessary to ensure their success. We train in quiet spaces where we can strengthen the skills of mindfulness and concentration through the practice of meditation.