Walking in the forest of your mind

flowerFinding our emotions requires that we be receptive. We need to open up and just see what’s there.

Another way of looking at this whole process is to think what it would be like to go charging noisily into a forest that’s full of shy birds and other wild animals. What would we see? Probably not a lot. If we go crashing through the undergrowth then when we finally stop and listen and look around, the forest will seem like a pretty dead and bleak place.

But what if we were to creep very quietly into the forest, and just wait, and watch, and listen. If we were to be so still that we blended into the background. Well, just being there might still make some of the more shy creatures a bit evasive, but eventually, if we have enough patience and are still enough, we’ll begin to see the deer, and foxes, and birds that were there all along.

Similarly, any action we take in the mind causes some disturbance, making it harder for us to become aware of our experience. Subtle emotions, physical sensations, feelings, and even intuitions can be overlooked because we’re too busy pursuing some goal.

So think of your emotions as being like very shy creatures that you’ll only see if you are patient and quietly receptive. When you meditate, think of creeping very quietly inside of yourself, and standing patiently, with your ears and eyes (and heart) open. In a little while, you’ll see some of the “wildlife” that is your own emotional life.

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I think this is so profound because when I listened to Jon Kabat Zinn’s tapes he would always say non doing is at the heart of meditation and it was one of his biggest quotes. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by this so I kind of just over looked it. After reading this I no really understand by what he meant by this and what I was doing wrong, or for that matter, the fact that I was just Doing was wrong. This just cleared up something huge for me because I have been plagued by anxiety and now that I reflect on it the harder I tried to be mindful the more anxiety I had. Its all so clear now!


Hi Nick. Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad this page was helpful to you. At the start we generally have to do quite a bit of work in meditation, but this work really has to be done within an atmosphere of “listening” where we’re aware of the effects of our actions. Eventually — and this can take a long time — we can get to the point where we really can just do nothing (at least sometimes) and simply rest in the mind. But to get to that point, as I mentioned, can take quite a bit of “doing”.

Good luck with your practice.


I read this meditation months ago and loved it immediately. I’m a serious tai chi practioner, but sometimes a leg injury means I don’t have that option.

I tried sitting with FWBO and other Buddhist groups and found my mind gets tighter with all the “shoulds”. In Tai chi the only should is “do your practice and observe yourself being less reactive”. Organised Buddhism ‘seemed’ to say “be better” and created denial.

The gentleness of the meditation above speaks to my experience that there can be a bigger space inside to hold my anguish, hurt feelings, terror etc, which = love. Not Buddhism doctrine, but a beautiful gift. Thank you!


I just wanted to say that I’m really enjoying reading what you’ve published here – It’s a wonderful free resource. Thank you.


I like the metaphor of emotions as shy birds, wildlife. I treasure nursing my son, sitting on a log quietly in a wood, and over my right shoulder, in my peripheral vision I noticed a beautiful fox very close to us.


I love this beautiful description of meditation as a walk in the woods or wilderness of the body, heart, and mind. I also appreciate your description of emotions as shy creatures. So reverent.


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