In our meditation on mindfulness, we learn to observe and not be distracted by our thoughts. Sitting there, we watch our mind and observe how thoughts bubble up and if we do not chase after them; how they pop and disappear. Some may confuse this as non-action. But in reality, we are making an active effort to just observe and not engage.
The purpose of the above is to understand or realize that thoughts are just transient mental factors. But it is such thoughts that gradually build up our personality. Our false sense of an “I”, our persona.
Do we just be “mindful” of what is going on in our heads and let them be? If we have bad thoughts, do we just let them arise? The answer is “definitely not”. If we understand how we are shaped by our thoughts, then we ought to understand that we need to rein them in. We cannot let our minds roam and simply maintain awareness of it.
For example, we need to stop lazy thoughts if we want to be successful in whatever goals we have. We have to stop cruel thoughts if we want to be kind. In another word, we have to take control of our mind and direct it towards the desired destination. As a practitioner, our mindfulness creates that awareness of our mind. We no longer say, “I don’t know what causes me to do that or say that.” Instead, we are fully in charge and we control what we become.
The awareness and that activeness in shaping our mind to become good is known as Right Effort.
- We stop bad thoughts, speech, actions, and habits.
- We prevent unwholesomeness that hasn’t arisen from arising.
- We actively encourage wholesomeness to arise if they haven’t arisen yet.
- We maintain wholesomeness that has already arisen.
From the above, we should understand that Buddhist practices are not passive. Instead, we actively take it upon ourselves to change for the better. That is what cultivation is all about. We work with our actions, speech and thoughts to gradually become a better version of ourselves, and ultimately become enlightened.
May all be well and happy.