It occurred to me this morning, and I thought it might be worth writing down, to add to the canon of bad metaphors for the mind and meditation.
Your mind is a skillet. Your thoughts are ingredients being cooked.
The first time a skillet is used, it is clean and fresh, and the ingredients pass through without hindrance.
With time, the skillet becomes worn, and food sticks to it more often. The eggs from breakfast are not fully removed before the chicken for dinner is added, mixing the flavors and making cooking more difficult.
If this happens for many years, the skillet will become caked over with previous meals. Eventually, these remnants seem to be indistinguishable from the skillet itself.
But the skillet is not the ingredients; it is the place where the ingredients appear. In the same way, your mind is not your thoughts. A skillet that holds on to ingredients from past meals fails to do justice to the next ingredient, just as a mind that holds too long onto an old thought fails to truly appreciate the next one.
A skillet should be cleaned to remove past ingredients; a mind should be cleaned of past thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation is the acknowledgement that underneath all the thoughts that have become stuck and seemingly impenetrable, there is a mind that is separate. That mind is just the place where the thoughts keep appearing and passing away.
It’s also important that the skillet does not choose the ingredients; the ingredients just appear and the skillet does what it does. If the ingredients are bad, it’s not the fault of the skillet. If the ingredients is good, it’s not because the skillet did something to make that happen.
Your mind does not choose your thoughts; the thoughts just appear and your mind does what it does. If your thoughts are negative, it’s not your fault and it does not reflect on you as a person. If your thoughts are positive and helpful, you can enjoy them for what they’re worth, but it’s not because you authored them. You didn’t.