We in the modern West assume that the normal mind is a healthy one. But a "healthy mind" is still subject to many types of distress, including depression, anxiety, frustration, restlessness, boredom, and resentment. Only when such imbalances are excessive are we advised to seek counseling and drug therapy. The implication is that unhappiness is part of life, and we're to make the best of it and learn from it, while happiness comes from outside: from sensual enjoyments, possessions, other people, or God.
But many of the world's contemplative traditions teach that the normal mind is afflicted in various ways; that since it so readily brings us suffering and anxiety, it can't be deemed healthy. One symptom of a dis-eased mind is that the attention oscillates between obsessive-compulsive states (grasping onto thoughts and emotions) and slipping into stupor.
When the mind is subject to such attentional dysfunction, its emotional ground state is dissatisfaction, for which we take solace in outer and inner pleasurable stimuli. By refining the attention we can make the mind serviceable and thereby rediscover …
Books by B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D., include Boundless Heart: The Four Immeasurables, Buddhism with an Attitude, and Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind (all Snow Lion Publications). He trained in Buddhist monasteries in India and Switzerland for more than a decade, studied physics at Amherst College, and earned his Ph.D. in religious studies at Stanford University.