Monday, November 9, 2009

My mind is like a herd of wild elephants

in need of some taming

Ancient Pali texts liken meditation to the process of taming a wild elephant. The procedure in those days was to tie a newly captured animal to a post with a good strong rope. When you do this, the elephant is not happy. He screams and tramples, and pulls against the rope for days. Finally it sinks through his skull that he can’t get away, and he settles down. At this point you can begin to feed him and to handle him with some measure of safety. Eventually you can dispense with the rope and post altogether, and train your elephant for various tasks. Now you’ve got a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work. In this analogy the wild elephant is your wildly active mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our object of meditation, our breathing. The tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well-trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the exceedingly tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality. Meditation tames the mind.

- Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, from “On Practice: Breathing,” Tricycle, Spring 1995


  1. Interesting and far from gentle. I doubt I have the stamina for such taming. Let me know how it works for you and then I'll consider it.
    (And I never do emoticons but that seemed appropriate somehow.)

  2. so true. I've been practicing mindfulness for over ten years and my brain still likes to fight the rope. I think I've found a sense of balance, when I can feed my elephant, but just when my back is turned I realize my elephant is eating the dang rope!

  3. Interesting. I like that.

    Throwing in, too, that elephants are very intuitive beings that emotionally attach and have complicated family structures. So compassion for the elephant brain when it's stampeding, as well. That's what I tell myself--haha.

  4. This is a great story and very interesting. Thanks for sharing

  5. all I can think about is the poor elephant ..... like a dog by himself on a rope in the yard

    can't that elephant just be an elephant?

  6. Hurts my feelings to think about tying a wild elephant to a post. But my mind could definitely use more order and I appreciate the imagery.

    And thanks for mentioning it at Hill Country Mysteries. I've been scurrying lately and might have missed seeing it.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...