Why “Wildmind”?

Mountain lakeI first had the idea for this site when I was teaching meditation at the University of Montana, and I found no reliable guides to meditation online. It occurred to me that if you can learn meditation from a tape or CD then you could just as easily learn from a streaming audio file on the internet, and that if you can learn meditation by reading a book then you could also learn by reading a web page. So I decided to set up my own site.

Then what to call it? I bounced ideas around with my students, and we considered domain names like “learn-meditation.com” and “serenitas.com” (Latin for serenity). But the one that had most appeal was “Wildmind.” People thought it was memorable and appropriate — by this time my students had discovered that meditation is as much about noticing how crazy the mind is as it is about developing stillness.

There were two precedents in my mind when I chose this name. There was a book by Buddhist writer Natalie Goldberg called “Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.” This book teaches you how to bypass your inner critic so that you can unleash the forces of creativity that are inherent to your mind. We are all inherently creative, but our inner critics stifle this creativity. It’s not that inner criticism is bad, by the way, just that we have to feel free to create before we start to sift through our creations to see what works and what doesn’t. Eventually we can, with practice, have our critic and creator working in harmony, so that we produce work that’s “pre-edited.”

The other precedent was poet Gary Snyder’s idea of the “wild mind.”

Wild mind, Snyder says, “means elegantly self-disciplined, self-regulating. That’s what wilderness is. Nobody has a management plan for it.”

A wilderness is beautiful and balanced. Yet it’s unplanned. Similarly, we can get to a stage in our meditation practice where we remove all controls and editing, and the mind is allowed to simply be what it is. And we find that the mind, like a wilderness, is elegantly self-disciplined and self-regulating. Of course we have to do a lot of work to get to that stage, and that work is what this site is about.

I called this site Wildmind for two other reasons.

The first is that most people, when they first start learning meditation, find that their minds are much more chaotic and out of control than they had realized. In fact, some people get distressed by this, because they’d rather not know how messy it is in there! However, your mind is not something you can escape from. So, since you’re stuck with your own mind, that means that the most sensible thing you can do with it is to start sorting out the mess so that you can live a more meaningful, creative, fulfilling, and beneficial existence. You can do this if you practice meditation.

The second reason I called this site wildmind, is because I use a lot of natural imagery in my teaching. This seems like a very natural thing to do. I think one of the reasons why nature is so attractive to us is because we aspire to have the qualities that we perceive in it. Wouldn’t it be great to have mind that was as calm and clear as a still lake at dawn, to have a heart that was as warm and radiantly open as the setting sun, to be as grounded and solidly rooted as a mountain. You can achieve this if you practice meditation.

7 Comments. Leave new

  • […] https://www.wildmind.org/about/why-wildmind Oh, and as for the picture of the cows. Well, they too wait to be milked in the morning and evening. Plus imagine yourself in that queue! I leave you with the following quote: “An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.” — George Mikes […]

  • Does the Wildmind symbol represent the upwards spiral to Enlightenment?

  • I’m very glad you’re doing what you’re doing, Mary.

  • Hi!
    Thanks for your site and work, really wonderful.
    I am an interfaith crisis chaplain and firefighter in Colorado. I have studied with His Holiness the Dalia Lama and Ven Thich Nhat Hahn and others over the years. I am becoming especially interested in meditation practice that can “go with me” where ever I am and what ever I am doing. The other day I was with other fire fighters, in our large fire engine, lights and sirens going on our way to a roll over accident – not knowing what we would find. As we sped down the mountain road, I found myself thinking about that still quiet place inside, free of all distraction. I thought of Dzogchen, the clouds drifting in front of the radiant sun. Everyone’s adreneline was pumping, mine included as we raced to the scene, I promised myself to stay mindful and connected no matter what we found when we arrived. I have chosen the path of Karma Yoga, the path of action in helping those who suffer. After taking the Bodhicitta and Bodhisattva vows, as promised, the awareness of suffering is with me everyday. So I find now my most important spiritual work is to, in the middle of chaos, to try and stay connected, aware and calm. A challenge for sure. I am glad I found your site. Will visit, especially after the long days.

  • Namaste, ’tis 3am in the small village of Hogsback South Africa, have recently got brand spanking new laptop computer and for the first time in my mid 50ish life I can connect to the wider world.
    Found your site and am very interested to linkup. Love ‘n Grattitude Denis


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