What is your Wildmind?
According to Buddhist teachings, our minds are inherently pure and luminous.
Sometimes, when we’re struggling with the stress of uncooperative children, or feeling frazzled trying to keep up with the unrealistic expectations of our employers, this can be hard to believe.
But the same teachings go on to say that our inherently pure and luminous minds are contaminated with “defilements” – those very states of stress, anger, and self-doubt that plague our lives. This, perhaps, is more familiar territory.
The aim of Buddhist meditation is to clear away the “adventitious defilements” so that we can experience ourselves — more deeply and more truly – in our primordial purity, clarity, and freedom of mind. Meditation helps us to cut through the agonizing clutter of superficial mental turmoil to allow us to experience more spacious and joyful states of mind.
It is this pure and luminous state that I call your “Wildmind.” This Wildmind, as I have said elsewhere, is not the wild mind that is disturbed by the winds of ill will, compulsive craving, or anxious restlessness, but lies beneath your wild mind like the still depths of the ocean lie beneath even the most tempestuous ocean.
When you think of true wilderness — The Wild — everything exists in a balance. No one has to organize the wild. Trees grow beautifully, shaped by the wind and the limitations of the resources available. Where a rock lies is the perfect place for that rock. No one has to tell the water where to flow and where to sit still. Everything unfolds in its own nature, and does so perfectly.
When the mind is imbued with mindfulness, the same thing happens. Things fall into place. balance is achieved. There’s no conflict. And this all happens without any micromanagement of this thought and that emotion. Everything unfolds in its own nature, and does so perfectly. That’s the goal at least. On the way to that goal there is work to be done, and this site is a manual for that work.
You have almost certainly had experiences that are close to the stillness, joy, and expansiveness that are the nature of your Wildmind. You may have experienced your Wildmind while in nature, for example. Your Wildmind is the mind that resonates with nature. It is the part of you that experiences awe and reverence. It is the childlike part of you that feels a profound wonder at the mystery that anything is, and – even more mysteriously – that you can be aware of it.
The mind as nature
A friend of mine – one of the most thoughtful people I know – once said that the reason he loved being in nature was that he would look at the vastness and power of the natural world, and know that there was no way you could — in any meaningful way – own or possess it.
Nature is far vaster than we are, and will outlast every one of us. It can’t be owned. But it can be emulated. It is possible to look at the vastness and power of the natural world and seek to pattern ourselves after it. While nature cannot be our possession, it can be our mentor.
The ironic thing of course is that our minds already are part of nature. We’re just out of touch with that nature. So we need tools and imagery to help us reconnect with the mind’s inherent Wildness — it’s self-organizing, balanced, spontaneous nature. We’d like to teach you some tools we’ve found helpful.
Your Wildmind is the mind that resonates with the elements and nature, but it is also your “natural mind” in the sense that it is your own truer nature. It is the state of pure awareness that is inherent in all of us, which lies in the depths, waiting to be revealed through patient purification of the mind.
You can strive to have a mind that is as spacious and pure as the vast dome of the heavens. You can strive to have a mind that is as clear and still as a lake at dawn, and that reflects the world undistorted. You can cultivate a heart that radiates love and compassion like the sun shines its life giving warmth and light on all, without discrimination.
In the Tibetan tradition, they call the Wildmind “Rigpa” – the state of primordial radiant awareness. Rigpa, or Wildmind, is contrasted with “sems,” which is the superficial, turbulent aspect of our mind that too many of us are caught up in. This sems, which I call the “wild mind” (using two separate words) is like the crashing waves on the surface of a vast lake during a storm. The Wildmind, or rigpa, is more like the still depths.
When the lake is disturbed in this way, it is impossible to see into its depths; the surface is chopped into ever-changing facets that prevent clear vision. But when the surface waters are stilled, then the depths – which have always been still — are accessible. The goal of Buddhist practice is to let go of the disturbed mental states on the surface, so that we may live from the spontaneous, profoundly intuitive, lucid depths.