Someone recently, said she was going to use mind over matter to deal with some discomfort that she was anticipating to arise during meditation. Insetad, I suggested she engage “mind with matter.”

Mind over matter suggests a clear separation between mind and matter. I really don’t think this separation exists. All “mind” is influenced by matter and the experience of matter is influenced by mind. Mind over matter also suggests effort, strain, perhaps even struggle. “By force of will, I will overcome this unpleasantness.”

It can certainly work. We can use aspects of mind to get through just about any experience. Mindfulness offers a way to engage mind with matter where we don’t mind matter and mind doesn’t matter.

We are always dealing with matter–the experience of our senses, the stuff that we have, and the laws of physics–the material world. Of course, each experiences is filtered through mind, so these are really not separate. More to the point, we have strong opinions about our material experiences–matter matters to us. We like and dislike. These preferences create tension. We try to exclude the things we don’t like and include the things that we like. Since we can’t control everything that happens to us, the pressure to include-exclude makes us vulnerable to anxiety, disappointment, and stress.

Mindfulness helps us to be peaceful in any moment–even a difficult moment. Mindful attention helps us to get to the point where matter doesn’t matter so much–we don’t mind matter.

We are always dealing with mind–thoughts, images, memories, and emotions. Like material, we have strong opinions about what our minds produce. We like and dislike, push and pull, and create the same tensions that can arise with our stuff. Here too, mindfulness can help us to be with whatever is arising without getting stressed out. We don’t have to judge mind. Mind doesn’t have to matter so much. We can just be in all our imperfections.

This discussion of mind and matter reminds me of a conversation between Bart and Homer Simpson.

Bart Simpson: “What is the mind? Is it just a system of impulses or is it something tangible?”

Home Simpson: “Relax. What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind!”


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