I had an interesting experience this evening that made me better understand a simple concept in Zen - that of the importance of having control over your mind. It might seem like a very easy thing to do - after all, it's your brain. But if you've ever tried meditating, it becomes very obvious how your brain just constantly produces new thoughts. It's very easy to lose focus and just follow any particular thought that might be interesting at the moment, and at that point, you are no longer in control. In this particular case, for some reason tonight I found myself musing about the pointlessness of life. This led me to wondering about the significance of my existence. Was I making any contribution to anything? What if I died right now? Would it matter? Sure, I imagine some people might miss me, but really nothing would change in the world. Others would quickly fill in the minor gaps that were left for things I might have been doing.
This thought process quickly turned my mood from one of very upbeat to one that was very depressed. Before I knew it, I was in an almost paralyzed state where I just didn't feel like doing anything since it was all totally pointless. And it was all from just a single initial thought that caused my mind to wander in a different direction. Looking back on it now, it all seems quite silly, but at the time, I just couldn't see that I had let a simple thought totally take over my mind.
Fortunately, I managed to come to my senses in a quite accidental manner. I ended up getting distracted reading some Sunday comics. Yes, the simple act of reading some comics was enough to jar me out of this foul mood. For a moment I completely forgot the negative chain of thought I had been following. At that point it then dawned on me that I had been letting a single thought rule my mind and affect my mood. My mood then immediately improved. And that's when I realized how it was a good illustration of the Zen concept of the importance to make sure you have control of your thoughts.