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Meditation—Why and How—Cleanse and Train The Mind

Learning this skill helps free you from self-destructive compulsions.

Discover the art of mental self-control.


We all recognize the value in taking care of our bodies.  We cleanse, feed, and clothe them; and we provide for adequate shelter; and we are at least aware of the need for and value of regular exercise to our health and well-being. Whenever our body gets sick, we try to figure out what went wrong and get something to fix it, if possible.


Rarely do we take time to attend to our minds. Everything is mind-made, yet we frequently take our minds totally for granted. Mind-made means that everything (our experience of life) is MADE in our minds. Our thoughts occur in response to outer and inner events. First, there is the event—then there occurs instantaneously our REACTION to it.


Our reaction is based on our FILTERS, which are our opinions, beliefs, evaluations, conclusions. The feeling tone that we experience is sculpted by our inner views—really made in our minds!


Our thoughts over time form patterns of thinking or habits of mental reactions. Examples are thoughts of joy and contentment, love, compassion or happiness or perhaps impatience, pessimism, sadness or cravings.


Our response to what happens in our world starts in our mind—with our thoughts—and is expressed in our actions. See the Various Meditation section on: Mind is the Source of Happiness and Pain and The Nature of Mind: What is it? Where is it? Also, Make Your Mind An Ocean.


The first thing that we need to do with our minds is to “clean them up!” Just like our houses, if we don’t occasionally take time to organize our things and throw things out that are no longer needed, over time our minds become very cluttered.


What mind has put in mind, only mind can clean out. The more we practice thinking in a certain way, the more habitual that way of thinking becomes. It feels normal and natural—it becomes a habit of mind.


Meditation allows us to notice the content of the thoughts floating through our minds. During meditation we learn to drop—from the mind—what we do not want to keep.

·        Just drop the inner dialog or story—that is, we perhaps focus on the breath coming in and going out, and when we lose our focus on the breath, we just immediately come back when we catch ourselves lost in fantasy, planning the future or worrying about the past—that is, we just let go of the story line—the content of the thoughts. 

·        We can also label thoughtslike thinking, remembering, worrying, and planning.

We just step back and look at them. When thoughts arise, we just gently observe them. We practice just noticing them, trying not to judge them.


This process takes lots of repetition, since for most of us our minds are undisciplined. Our thoughts wander off in all directions—compulsive planning, worrying, fantasies about many things. We have to train our minds to STOP…to drop the content of our thoughts—and to come back to the present moment. It takes bringing our mind back again and again to the object of meditation (such as the breath, a word, a sound, or even walking with awareness).


Meditation is really like doing push-ups or weight training for the mind—it gives the mind muscle to perform the valuable skill to do what you want it to do—rather than always being carried along by out-of-control thoughts. Mental strength comes from working against the resistance of undisciplined thoughts—until we finally gain enough mental potency to stop our train of thoughts mid-thought. We can then direct our minds where we want them to go, rather than going wherever they take us! 

·        Through the practice of abiding in a calmer state—we cease the torrent of chattering thoughts. Over time we can achieve a serenely settled state of mind. Ah...


Discover other ideas at:



Books and Web sites on Meditation & Mindfulness

  •    The Three Minute Meditator, by David Harp, (1996), New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, California. Gives 30 simple ways to unwind your mind while enhancing your emotional intelligence. Written by a musician and a therapist. Your mind and your thoughts can either work for you, or against you. Meditation will help your mind to help you! Feel you don't have time to meditate? Even a few minutes of meditation can literally "unwind your mind" and help you to: Cope with the stresses of daily life, treat yourself with more compassion, and understand your fears and desires.

  • Reviewer: A reader
    I'm amazed to converse with friends. We have "circuitry overload" in our western lifestyle.....having all types of external amenities but still "not happy." Everyone NEEDS to learn this mental exercise. Harp introduces us to meditation and its virtues....and sort of modernizes it. He is also open enough to tell us where he falls short and how he uses it in his daily life. Bottom line: we can have "everything" but unless we process properly from an internal view...we really have minimal. Meditation is one vehicle to allow us to get rid of the "drunken monkeys" to help enjoy our everyday efforts and gains. Great for the beginner...however when I find myself getting off "meditation track"...Harp's book is the one I grab for. Good job, David! This book can be ordered through .

  • The Beginner’s Guide To Insight Meditation, by Arinna Weisman and Jean Smith, (2001), Bell Tower, New York. Arinna's book is wonderful! Provides terrific wisdom and insight into our sufferings, and shares the path to transform ineffective patterns into more wholesome ones. I love Arinna's ability to nurture hope in us when at times we might feel "hopeless."

  • Seeking The Heart Of Wisdom, by Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield, (1987), Shambhala Publishers A classic! Shares deep insights about the difficulties and hindrances of meditating and the transformative value of understanding cause and effect. One unique and helpful section is how to integrate practice into our daily lives and how to develop an integrated awareness of all dimensions of our being, making our body, our actions, our feelings, our relationships, our work, and our play, all part of our meditation.

  • Buddhism Without Beliefs, by Stephen Batchelor, (1997), Riverhead Books. Amazing insights and wisdom written in common English with no jargon or technical terms.

  • Wake Up To Your Life: Discovering The Buddhist Path of Attention, By Ken McLeod, (2002), Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. An excellent resource on dismantling our automatic reactions and conditionings to life. Provides practical insights about how to train our minds to experience greater peace and contentment. Really GOOD! You can purchase the book at:  

  • Peace Is Every Step (1991),The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh, (1976), Beacon Press, Boston  In Thich Nhat Hanh's book Present Moment Wonderful Moment--Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living*, Parallax Press, (1990). See also Parallax Press Resources for Mindful Living: *From the introduction: This book contains short verses to help us dwell in mindfulness. We often become so busy that we forget what we are doing or even who we are. We forget to look at the people we love and to appreciate them...we don't know how to get in touch with what is going on inside and outside of ourselves...To meditate is to be aware of what is going on in our bodies, our feelings, our minds, and in the world. This is a delightful book that promotes a feeling of joy and of the sacredness of life.

  • Guided Meditations on the Lamrim (The Gradual Path from Confusion to Self-Awareness and Freedom), by Thubten Chodron. 14 audio CD’s, including an explanatory booklet. Order: from DFF Lamrim CD’s, P.O. Box 30011, Seattle, WA 98103, or Email:   See the meditation section of this web site for the adapted version of these meditations. They helped me transform my distorted vision of the world and bring to me peace and contentment.

  • Present Moment Wonderful Moment, by Thich Nhat Hanh, (1990), Parallax Press

  • Loving What Is (and Excerpt), by Byron Katie, (2002), Harmony Books, order Excerpt from

 Books on Spiritual Cognitive Therapy

  • Practicing The Power of Now, (1999), by Eckhart Tolle, New World Library Sounds True has audio and videotapes of this book, and many other titles. 800-333-9185 Provides suggestions and insights to experience the joy of being, to enter the now, to accept whatever is happening (to see impermanence and the cycles of life), and to transform the "pain body" in us.
  • Stillness Speaks, (2003), by Eckhart Tolle, Namaste Publishing and New World Library. From the Introduction, "The only function of a spiritual teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth of who you already are and what you already know in the depth of your being." Enjoy discovering your inner being!
    • Namaste Publishing promotes Eckhart's  books and other materials. Their mission is: "To make available publications that acknowledge, celebrate, and encourage others to express their true essence and thereby come to remember Who They Really Are." Find them at:  
    • Namasté means, "I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace, when you are in that place in you and I'm in that place in me, we are one."
  • Becoming Your Own Therapist and Make Your Mind an Ocean by Lama Yeshe, (2003), Lama Yeshe Archive, books available on donation basis at  These books are helpful in studying ourselves and the nature of our own minds. They introduce the path of self-inquiry. They explore the Buddhist approach to mental illness in a "question and answer" format.
  • Peace Is Every Step- The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, (1991), Bantam Books, New York, The Heart of The Buddha’s Teachings, by Thich Nhat Hanh, (1998), Broadway Books. All of his books touch the heart with insight, tenderness, kindness and practical transformational ideas.
  • By Thubten Chodron. also, :
  • Buddhism for Beginners,
  • Open Heart, Clear Mind,
  • Taming the Mind, (Snow Lion Publishers)
  • Transforming the Heart: The Buddhist Way to Joy and Courage,
  • Working With Anger and
  • What Color is Your Mind?

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well-known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. Her books help us to understand our life’s journey. I have found them incredibly helpful.

For RealPlayer audio teachings visit:

See also AUDIO LIBRARY for other teachings:  These teachings are FABULOUS!

  • Emotional Alchemy-How the Mind Can Heal The Heart, by Tara Bennett-Goleman, (2001), Harmony Books

Gives suggestions for transforming stuck habits of mind, emotions and relationships that create suffering—which then can lead to perceptual shifts and healing.

  • Loving-Kindness- The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, by Sharon Salzberg, (1995), Shambhala Publishers, Boston & London
  • Seat Of The Soul, (1990), by Gary Zukav, Fireside Publishers
  • When Things Fall Apart, Wisdom Of No Escape, Start Where You Are, By Pema Chodron, (1994), Shambhala, Publications

         All of Pema’s books provide earthy, honest advice—as if from your loving grandmother.1

             Copyright © 2001-2018 Bob Wilson BS, DTR  All Right Reserved. Articles are for personal use only. Please request permission for other uses. Thanks!