Baseball player approaches the home plate. He takes a few practice swings to get relaxed and comfortable in his stance. Maybe he takes a few deep breaths. He settles in, faces the pitcher, focuses - attending to the ball, his object of attention, the present moment. This is much like what we do as practitioners of meditation, right? Approach the cushion, relax into our posture, find the breath in the present moment.
The pitcher is hoping to fool the batter, distract him, get him to take a swing. Our mind plays these tricks with us too. The pitcher/mind winds up and lobs in the first pitch - here it comes - craving, the wanting mind. The batter wants to take a swing, wants that hit, to get on base, wants to hear the crowd cheer. Because of his practice in the batting cage, he is steady. He sees that this is not the pitch for him. He lets craving go right on by, high and inside - ball one. He takes another practice swing, assumes his stance, and brings his focus back.
The pitcher/mind winds up again, “ok, let me try this one, it’s my old standby, it gets ‘em every time.” The second pitch - aversion, the not-wanting mind. The batter doesn’t want to strike out, he doesn’t want to walk back to the dug out with his head hung low, doesn’t want to let the team down. Because of his practice, he is steady. Again, he sees that this is not the pitch for him. He lets aversion pass right by - low, inside. Ball two! Back to his stance, his focus, the present moment.
Let’s not forget, the batter is questioning himself - the doubting mind. “What am I doing here anyway?” “I should have spent more time in the batting cage yesterday. “ “That probably wouldn’t have mattered.”
And, so on - the mind comes up with yet another distraction, another hindrance. Make it pitch three - dullness, the sleepy mind. Nope, low and outside, ball three. Pitch four is high and outside - the restless mind, full of judgment, worry, constant planning and ruminating. Ball four, batter takes a walk!
The mind is our internal pitcher. It just keeps lobbing distractions our way, on and off the cushion. If we don’t take a swing, that’s okay, the mind will try another and another. Meditation practice is something like the batting cage, practice for the real game - life. Then, like the practiced batter, we can be steady - acknowledging each pitch, letting them arise off the mound, cross the plate, and fall away. Then, we can choose to bring our stance, our focus back to the present moment. Batter up!