Once the Buddha was travelling from one town to another with some followers. This was in the initial days after he had attained supreme enlightenment. While on the road, they happened to pass a large lake. So they all stopped there and the Buddha told one of his disciples that he was thirsty. “Do get me some water from that lake there,” he requested.
The disciple walked down to the lake. When he reached the shore, he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the water. And right at that moment, a bullock cart started crossing the lake. Soon, all the churning made the water very muddy. The dismayed disciple thought, “How can I give this turbid water to the Buddha to drink!”
So he came back and told the Buddha, “The water there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.”
After some time, the Buddha again asked the disciple to go back to the lake and fetch some water to drink. The disciple went back and was pleasantly surprised. This time the water in the lake was absolutely clear. So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to the Buddha.
The Buddha looked at the water, and then up at the disciple. He then said, “See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be...and the mud settled down on its own. You got clear water.”
“The mind is also like that,’ the Buddha continued, “When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You need not calm it down. It will happen without effort.”
Thus peace of mind is an effortless process. When there is peace inside someone, that peace permeates to the outside. It spreads around the person into the environment. Soon people around start feeling that peace, that sense of blissful grace.
The Buddha once described the mind as a wild horse. In the eightfold path, he recommended practicing ‘right effort’ by first avoiding, and then clearing the mind altogether of negative thoughts. What results is a tranquil, wholesome state of mind.
With the mind thus calmed, there can be a clearer perception of things as they really are.
Practitioners of mindfulness know this. Like the Buddha, they know it is important ‘to stop and smell the roses.’ It was the Buddha who taught disciples to pay close attention to their bodies, their feelings, their states of mind, and all that was happening around.
Living and experiencing the moment keenly, the disciples learnt to recognize their passions and desires. It then became possible for them to be free of past regrets and future worries. This is the power of positive thinking, of right mindfulness.