by Kelvin Chin, Meditation Teacher & Life After Life Expert
A visual image of how to address some of the age-old questions about the human mind…
About 40 years ago, I started using an analogy to describe “the mind” to people in a more visual way.
I had just instructed the senior executive team at a very large insurance company, whose regional office was based in Hong Kong. One of their executives had a PhD in psychology from the University of Houston, and when I was describing how much more of the human mind there is that could be experienced and unfolded through meditation, he interrupted and told us an analogy that his psychology professor often used.
I have been using it ever since…
His professor told them to picture the then recently constructed Houston Astrodome (1965), which at that time was the world’s first multipurpose domed sports stadium. It was huge for its time. He said to imagine it empty — except for yourself sitting at the very top row of seats at the 50-yard line — and to imagine a small 8” tall bucket way down on the middle of the field with a dozen ping pong balls bouncing in and out of it. The professor said the Houston Astrodome was analogous to our mind, and that the bucket of ping pong balls represented the equivalent amount of activity going on in our mind, how much of the mind we each typically used.
I have been using that analogy ever since to describe how much more of our minds we have to “wake up” and use. And that ‘turning within’ through meditation is a way to wake up those dormant areas of the mind for us to activate, enliven, and use in our daily lives.
A Variation on the Analogy
Recently, I came up with a variation on that analogy to explain and help people understand an abstract principle of the human mind in a more concrete, visual way.
Inevitably in meditation, our minds wander. And if we are practicing a meditation technique like the ‘turning within’ technique that I teach, the mind will inevitably wander off of the technique, or off of the sound, and will be thinking all sorts of things. This is natural and normal in the meditation process.
When that happens, my students sometimes ask, “When I am meditating, and I get away from my sound, Who is the ‘I’ that realizes that ‘I’ am not thinking the sound?”
The short answer is: It is you, it is your mind.
Your mind can have different perspectives, almost as if being in a different place but — while that is not literally true — it is still your mind — just a different “view”.
Here's the longer answer.
Most of the time, most of us are (as if) in the bucket. In other words, we are in and among the thoughts, activity, and focus of life — whether awake or meditating. But occasionally, during meditation our mind may automatically as if ‘step out’ of the bucket and we can sometimes experience a different perspective.
But it is still ourselves having the experience of ourselves…just in a different way.
In those initially brief, fleeting moments like that, we experience ourselves “being aware we are not thinking the sound….” It is that momentary reflectiveness that is, nevertheless, “my mind” — just experiencing itself outside the bucket for a moment.
As we continue meditating over the months and years, the mind becomes more and more familiar with staying alert and conscious outside the bucket of activity. Yet, it still is ‘within itself’ — it’s still in the Houston Astrodome — it still is the mind experiencing itself, just in a different way.
You see, most of us don’t have much conscious awareness of all the various permutations and nooks and crannies of our own minds. Many, in fact, have never really ‘stepped outside the bucket’ to even realize that their minds are more than just what’s happening in that bucket. Many have seldom experienced how much more interesting, expansive and operationally different in so many ways their minds can be, compared to what they are used to.
So, the experience of ‘stepping outside the bucket’ is not only new for most of us…but also many of us haven’t even experienced that there is ‘a bucket’ — that our experience has been limited to the container we are used to being in.
I suggest that this whole notion of ‘the mind experiencing itself’ is an experience we all need to experience in increments, in a ‘one step at a time’ way. In a gradually increasing way…
And by taking those first steps of turning within and exploring more of ‘who we are’ as individual minds, as we get to ‘know ourselves’ better in this ‘from the inside out’ approach, we quite naturally will expand the possibilities of our experience in daily life —giving rise to more creative, fun and effective lives.
Kelvin H. Chin is a Meditation Teacher, Life After Life Expert, and Author of “Overcoming the Fear of Death.” He learned to meditate at age 19, and has been teaching Turning Within and coaching others in their self-growth for 45 years. He helps people understand their life challenges through their individual belief systems, and helps them find their own solutions. His past life memories reach back many centuries, and he accesses those memories in his teaching and his coaching in the same way all coaches draw on their own available experiences for perspective and effective analogies. He can be reached at www.TurningWithin.org.