Right Here in the Mind
February 02, 2024

We close our eyes when we meditate so that we can look more carefully at the mind.

Years back, I was teaching a retreat in Brazil, and someone in the group asked, “We practice so that we can help the world, so why aren’t we keeping our eyes open as we meditate?” That’s a big misunderstanding right there. We’re practicing because we want to train the mind. We realize that the source of all the suffering that weighs us down is the mind itself. This is where the problem is, and this is where the solution is going to be found, and this is where you have the resources that can contribute to that solution. You have some mindfulness, you have some alertness, you have the desire to do well in life. Those are all good things, but you’ve got to learn how to focus them inside, to watch yourself, to see what’s going on in the mind.

When the Buddha talks about contentment, sometimes you hear it said that you should be content with whatever comes up in the mind. But the Buddha never said that. Actually, he said that you should be content with food, clothing, shelter: the things outside that support you in the practice, and as long as they’re good enough for the practice, they’re good enough for you.

Where you focus your discontent, he said, is inside the mind itself. If you see there is anything that’s unskillful, you want to do something about it. You can’t just sit there with it. You may sit with it for a while to understand it, but once you understand it, you don’t let it continue to have power over the mind. You do what you can to get rid of it. That applies not only to unskillful qualities but also to skillful ones. If a good quality in the mind not good enough yet, you want to make it better, to keep working at it. So, contentment outside, discontent inside—not so much that you feel frazzled, but to realize that there is work to be done.

Years back, someone wrote to us. He found this passage on our website where the Buddha says that he attributed the success of his awakening to the fact that he was discontent with skillful qualities. The person writing to us said that this must be a misprint. Well, it’s not a misprint. It’s what the Buddha actually said—translated into English—and there’s a skill in learning how to handle that discontent so that it keeps you on the path and doesn’t get you discouraged. At the same time, it keeps reminding you that there’s work to be done, and this is where it needs to be done: right here in the mind.

We close our eyes so that we can forget about the issues of the world for the time being and focus our attention fully on the mind. The training of our mind will have an impact on the world, so we want it to have an impact that’s naturally good, that comes from a source of genuine goodness inside. This is where it’s really important to stay focused. So, when you close your eyes, you’re not closing your eyes to what needs to be done. You’re actually opening your inner eyes so that you can see clearly to what the problem is, and what can be done to solve it.