Mindfulness Meditation: Why Training Your Mind Is Like Training a PuppyNone By Lama Tsomo
Take a moment to imagine someone meditating. What do you see? Pure bliss? Serenity? Instagram photos of a fit individual seated in full lotus on the beach as the sun rises? Like so many things in our lives, we’re overthinking it.
During meditation practice, we train our minds using our minds. Now, that may sound very confusing. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. If we take a moment to envision our minds as puppies, things become a bit clearer.
Like our minds, puppies are chaotic and constantly getting themselves into trouble. One moment they’re investigating a bug, the next they’re chewing on the sofa and a moment later they’re stuck behind the washing machine. Does that sound familiar? It should. Our minds are just like puppies. They’re constantly darting between distractions, creating imaginary futures, replaying past events, and getting lost in over-analyzing every experience.
When training a puppy, one of the first things we do is teach it to sit and be still. We hope to accomplish something similar for our minds during meditation practice. In meditation, we choose to focus on one thing. Maybe it’s our breath or a mantra or an image. Whatever the object, the purpose is the same: to be mindful and fully in-the-moment, instead of chasing after thoughts and emotions.
Make no mistake. Everyone gets distracted, but it’s actually when we catch ourselves being distracted that we reward our puppy mind. It’s common for people practicing meditation to become discouraged when they can’t get the puppy in their head to stay perfectly still, but how many of us have ever met a perfectly behaved puppy? If you have, you’re luckier than most! It’s called meditation “practice” for a reason—we’re working with our mind and encouraging it to sit more frequently and for longer periods.
It’s actually a beautiful moment of clarity when our mind catches itself overthinking. That’s the moment when we reward the puppy in our head with a pat and a smile. Puppies respond best when rewarded and not when unnecessarily punished.
This brings us to another important point. The first day we bring a puppy home, we don’t hope to have trained in 24 hours. Pushing a puppy too far and too fast rarely has positive or beneficial results. When meditating, consider stopping while still enjoying the practice and before it becomes too frustrating. This will make sure the puppy mind keeps wanting to come back for more practice.
Now, once again, imagine someone meditating. What do you see? Maybe you see yourself, gently working the puppy in your head and encouraging it to sit and stay a little more each day, instead of chasing after cats and getting stuck in laundry baskets.
Start training your mind with Lama Tsomo’s Happify track featuring 28 guided lessons and meditations: Hack Life’s Challenges by Training Your Mind.
Lama Tsomo is an American lama, author, and co-founder of the Namchak Foundation and Namchak Retreat Ranch. She followed a path of spiritual inquiry and study that ultimately led to her ordination as one of the few American lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. Lama Tsomo learned Tibetan to study with her teacher Tulku Sangak Rinpoche, and now shares the teachings of the Namchak lineage in the US and abroad. Fascinated by science from an early age, she often weaves recent findings from research into her candid and humorous talks. Lama Tsomo holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology and is the author of the award winning Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? An Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice. She is passionate about reaching young people and supporting those working for positive social change.
You May Also Like: