at times the Buddha compared meditation to taming or training an animal. He usually used animals one can ride - such as elephant or horse. Being a passionate horse back rider myself I wondered if I could understand this analogy. For anyone who is interested - this is what I found:
It is said that moral is a necessary condition for meditation:
Usually we think of moral as an ideology, a set of rules a la "never do this, always do that". To be interested in ideology, to find out what is right to do and what not is a phase most humans go through during their late teens to mid-twens. The behaviour taught by the parents was questioned during the teens and new moral behaviours are tried passionately during the twens. But this does not last. Like all phases we go through the phase of ideology is an important one for development and self-searching, but it is also impermanent.
Animals like horses and elephants go through phases, too. They go through a time of rebellion like our teens but it is much shorter. Of course I can't be sure but I doubt that they develop ideologies or philosophies of morality. But there is something that is important for taming both animals and one's mind, something that has to be developed before one can train an animal or enter jhana: trust.
To ride properly the horse has to trust the rider, not only that the rider will not hurt it but also that it understands what the rider wants it to do. Most horses today are bred for riding for many generations, there is an inbred disposition to please the rider just as one's mind has a disposition to please one. But both horse and mind have to understand what one wants it to do and to trust one.
If one always ends one's day by thinking "I should not have done that" or "I should not have said this" or "I should have done that" or "I should have said this" it means that the mind does things one does not want it to do. Or to put it differently: one cannot trust one's own mind. But without trust one cannot relinquish control and relax into concentration or observation. Neither samatha nor mindfulness meditation are possible. One is like a rider who has to constantly reign the horse in, there is no control and no relaxation but constant struggle and pain. And thus there can be no development.
People who get into these endless loops of self-bashing "I should not have done that" and so on don't train their minds properly. Because the next day, during a similar situation their mind will react in just the same way as before and afterwards these people again punish it by forcing it through these loops again. It is like you are not happy with your horse's behaviour in the morning and beat it at the end of the day until it bleeds. It is not only cruel - it is useless. The horse has already forgotten the incident and does not connect the deed with the punishment. It just becomes confused, being confused it becomes scared and being scared it becomes uncontrollable. The mind is like that. If one has to reprimand it, to change its course, one has to do it within seconds - or not at all.
Of course we all have situations when we think we have not reacted or acted properly. But the correct way to deal with this afterwards is to plan what to do or say during the NEXT similar situation and then, when the time comes, remind the mind to do so within seconds. Just as one has to change the horse's behaviour within seconds for it to learn what is requested of it. It may take some time to train one's mind (and horse) like this but it is worth the inconvenience.
Because once one can trust one's mind to behave morally, meaning no need to get into these loops of self mortification in the evenings, one can start to meditate properly. Just like one can start to ride properly once there is trust between horse and rider.
The first step when riding an unknown horse is to pay attention to the movements of the horse. Every horse moves in a different way, cause it has a different body than all other horses. It is the job of the rider to learn to accompany these movements with his/her own body, to get horse and rider in harmony and balance. This is the time the horse usually starts to relax, to snort and to feel pleasure itself. It becomes willing to learn, to concentrate and to make an effort. In the same way when we start to pay attention to the movements of a mind with the mutual trust established the mind relaxes, concentrates itself and experiences pleasure. It is ready to make an effort. Samatha or mindfulness meditation can begin.
To be continued.