This is one of those old school sayings from my, very Southern, Grandmother. For those who haven’t heard it, “A watched pot never boils” is the saying to which I’m referring. This is one of those things I remember hearing often in my childhood. Statements like these have a special space in my memory banks just the imagery captured my imagination. I am under no illusion my Grandma invented the saying I am well aware how popular it is
“A watched pot never boils”
Teaching the Unteachable
The vast majority of times this phrase was recited to me had nothing to do with actual water, cooking, or, even a kitchen. Rather the majority of times I was told this was in reference to my lack of patience. Of course, I had no patience, I was a child at that point. However, we have to try to impart those little pieces of value in a world where moral value is in short order. They tend to payoff in just this way, in those wonderful little bursts of retrospection. Love you Grandma!
From the Dharma’s Perspective
If you look at this story form the perspective of the Buddha Dharma it’s takes a different meaning but at the same time strikingly similar. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness includes: Mindfulness of the breath, Mindfulness of body positioning, Mindfulness of the 32 parts of the body, and, Mindfulness of clearly comprehending what is helpful and what is not. One of the 32 parts of the body.
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The practice literally consists of using the mind itself to observe the mind. In so doing, we are watching the boiling pot of the mind. I know, I’m reaching a little but hear me out. When we play this analogy out; the mind is the boiling pot, the heat applied is the external influence placed on our minds, and, the bubbles are the thoughts themselves. In our standard mode of operation this thing boils over like the first time you tried to make Mac n’ Cheese. You know what I’m talking about, you made a damn mess.
In meditation we are observing the mind. We are literally watching the pot. Though it still boils even on the most focused practitioners it is still a practice that leads to the lessening of the boiling over events. Though it’s not an exact science of perfect results the practice creates enough change in enough people to be worth a look.
What does this mean for your practice? How can you apply this to your life? The parallel is simple, if you use your mind to watch your mind; the boiling pot that is the mind is won’t boil over. Sounds simple right? When we observe a process we remain at the helm instead in auto pilot. We are the chef watching the pot, ensuring it doesn’t boil over. That’s not to say you won’t ever get upset, it will help you to act not react. Honestly, with some practice you may be able to see where this reaction got it’s start.
Take the time, turn your mind on itself. Use your awareness to decipher the little bits about the processes going on within. As a mindfulness practice this will be as mobile as you want it to be. If you’re mad, happy, sad, or anywhere in between apply your awareness to that state. See where you are mentally, then, trace the steps backwards until you can find their beginnings. How did you arrive at this state?
The Dharma is an almost unparalled system of perspective changing examinations, put in the work and find them.