Mental Detox

By nature a pure mind always dwells in infinite love, infinite compassion, infinite sympathetic joy, infinite equanimity. These are the basic characteristics of a pure mind. And someone who always lives in infinite love, infinite compassion is free from misery. That is real happiness.

S. N. Goenka, Vipassana meditation teacher

Know thyself.

Inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi

When our bodies become poisoned, whether from alcohol or drugs or environmental toxins, we must go through a detoxification process to regain health. This can be a difficult, possibly painful process as the body throws off the poison. If one is unwilling to endure some discomfort one is unlikely to become free of the poison. If one is willing to persist and take time to let the body heal, a new level of health is possible.

Just as our bodies can be weakened by exposure to poisons, our minds are susceptible to the toxins of craving, aversion, and ignorance. These mental toxins arise naturally in human life, and unfortunately, our culture often encourages them. Most of us live in a toxic soup of fear, anger, envy, and impatience. Just as the addict indulges in unhealthy behavior that, for a while, masks the nature of the poison, we delude ourselves into thinking that our unhappiness can be removed by material things and sensual pleasures. Lasting happiness does not come from doing things or having things. Happiness arises naturally when we become free of the mental and emotional toxins that poison us.

Meditation is a tool we can use to detoxify the mind. When we meditate, we suspend our indulgence in toxic thoughts. When we open the mind and just observe, we can begin to see the source of our difficulties.

When we quiet the mind, we can see the source of our misery in our toxic memories and thoughts. We may find that sitting still stimulates the flow of negative thoughts and emotions. Just as an alcoholic in detox may experience shakiness, hallucinations, and unpleasant body sensations, when we attempt to still the mind, the mental impurities may manifest themselves. This is the opportunity to go beyond our addiction to them and observe them at their source. The sources of misery are not outside us. They are within the structure of the body/mind. In the peace of a quieter mind we can see the truth.

Give yourself time in meditation to free yourself of mental toxins. Be patient. Be persistent. Take time to attain subtler and subtler truth, deeper and deeper knowing.


Sit upright with erect spine and closed or downcast eyes. Stay present as you observe your respiration. Notice your in-breath and your out-breath. Don't try to change your breathing. Just watch the breath flow in and out.

As you observe your breath, memories, thoughts, and feelings may arise. Notice them, but don't cling to them. Don't try to make them go away. Just observe them dispassionately and let them go. Continue to follow your breath and stay awake and aware.

As thoughts and emotions arise, observe how they arise. How do they come to you? As discomfort arises, observe how it arises. What is the source of the discomfort?

Use this quiet time to learn about yourself. Realize the truth of your nature. Allow the impurities of mind to arise and dissipate. Be patient. Sit in the light of true self healing. Sit in the realization of your true nature. Experience the truth beyond mind and matter.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett