Calm: The first noticeable outcome of meditation is a slowing down of the mental processes. With the slowing down of the mind comes a distinct relaxation response. The body-mind connection manifests as a decrease in pulse rate, a slowing of respiration, a reduction in the stress response and a general over-all feeling of well-being. The practice of following the breath allows the mind to achieve states of deep concentration and calm. The serenity and peace that comes from this state is an ideal lab for our research into mind. It is only when we become free from the hubbub of our everyday discursive thinking that the intricacies of the mind become observable.
Thinking is like the flow of water in a millstream. The wheel of life would cease to turn, or so we believe, without it. But when the pressure of the water against the wheel becomes too much, thoughts seem to race, and then we yearn for respite. We like to vegetate with a good book or an entertaining movie. When the flow of the millstream becomes a white water rapids, thinking gets muddied and, in all this mental turmoil, it is hard to tell one mental object from another. There is confusion. Enduring the constant pressure of monkey mind requires energy, which results in tension, that wears us out. Sometimes it feels really good to just stop the conversation in our heads and let ourselves get lost in unwholesome activities like gambling, sexual misconduct or mood altering with chemicals. All of these allow us to achieve escape velocity. In meditation, slowing down and even stopping the flow of thoughts becomes possible. To see what lies beneath the water, the dam gates must be closed so that the mud can settle, the water can clear and things can be seen for what they are without obfuscation. We realize that thoughts are not facts. They are just passing, mental objects that supplant one another in a steady stream even in our sleep. That is just the way it is.
In times of difficulty, a peaceful mind is your best friend. A mind that is tense, grinding out thought after thought, worrisome, or fearful is not a fit environment for imaginative problem solving. When there is peace in the mind, the creative part of the brain flows with energy. We think the best way to handle a difficult problem is to act like a computer and launch a brute force attack and sometimes that is the best way, but more often then not the most creative solutions seem to pop up when our minds are at ease.