Why our minds get disturbed

The body and mind are what stir up trouble. But the body and mind can bring peace.


Analogy of Dyed Water

Actually, the mind is already at normalcy. It’s like rain water, water that’s normally clear, pure, and clean. But if you put green or yellow dye into it, it turns green or yellow.

It’s the same with the mind:

  • If you meet up with a preoccupation you like – the heart feels good and at ease.
  • If it meets up with a preoccupation you don’t like – it feels dis-ease.

It gets murky—like water that turns yellow when mixed with yellow dye, black when mixed with black dye, green when mixed with green dye.  It keeps changing its color.

But actually, the water that’s yellow or green: Its normalcy is that it’s clear and clean.  The normalcy of the mind is like rain water. It’s a mind that’s clear and clean.  It’s a mind whose normalcy isn’t stirred up and troubled.

The reason it’s stirred up and troubled is because it takes after its preoccupations. It falls for its preoccupations.


Analogy of the Leaf being blown

To put it so that you’ll see this clearly: Right now we’re sitting in a forest that’s quiet, like a leaf. A leaf, if there’s no breeze blowing, is still. Quiet. If a breeze blows, it flutters in line with the breeze.

The same with the mind. If it makes contact with a preoccupation, it flutters in line with the preoccupation.


The more it’s ignorant of the Dhamma – the more you keep letting it run loose in line with its moods:

  • If the mood is happy, you let it run loose
  • If the mood is unhappy, you let it run loose

and it keeps staying stirred up—to the point where people have nervous breakdowns, because they don’t know what’s going on. They let things run loose in line with their moods.

They don’t know how to care for their minds.  When the mind has no one to care for it, it’s like a person with no parents to care for it, a destitute person. A destitute person has no refuge. A person who lacks a refuge suffers.

The same with the mind. If it lacks training in making its views right, it’s put to all sorts of difficulties.


Ajahn Chah

Still Flowing Water, Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, p6


2 thoughts on “Why our minds get disturbed

  1. Right on! The pure water thinks it is dyed water when it comes into contact with dye – even though its innate nature is still pure water.

    In the same way, when sadness enters the mind, we say ‘ “I am” soooo sad!!!’ And this is how we give ourselves some suffering. Before we have realized it, we’ve already identified this impermanent feeling as being “me” or “mine”, when it’s just a feeling that arises and ceases. So this is like the pure water that thinks it’s dyed.

    BUT, the fact that we say that “sadness” enters the “mind”, already, we know that they are 2 separate things – sadness and the mind are 2 separate things. And because we can sit back and observe the sadness, therefore we are not the sadness. It is something separate from us.

    Sadness is just sadness – it’s just a feeling that arises and ceases – and is not self. There is the sadness but the sadness is not really us – its just a feeling that has come, will dwell for a while and will start to go away by itself if you don’t interfere with it. So don’t identify these feelings as being you or a part of you – don’t confuse feelings to be you. Feelings are just feelings and are not self.

    The mind and the objects that it’s aware of are separate entities. So even though we identify with those mind objects (in this case, sadness) as being the same as us by saying “I am sad”, we can also notice that “That which is aware of the sadness is not sad“.

    So you can let it go and the sad feeling will dissipate by itself if you stop holding on to it and clinging to as if it is you or yours. Sadness is just sadness, and is not self – so let it go. That which is aware of the sadness is not sad.

    So Insight meditation is like this – understanding how to use not-self – to distill the original purity of your mind back from the defilements that confuse it about its original pristine, clear, pure nature.

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