Mind, O Mind! The Journey to Mindfulness
Someone said to me recently, “You want to forgive a person and forget something connected with him, but when that person comes in front of you, old memories come rushing back disturbing your equilibrium. They unsettle me. What can I do to overcome that?”
There are three things you can do to avoid being thrust into a situation like this. Somewhere it is our stiff ego that needs to make way for the sublime mind to do its work. Without dropping the former, the latter has little room to grow.
Confronting Multiple Minds
Often when we think of our mind, we think of a single entity. As if this entity lives somewhere inside us. That, it is the same mind that becomes happy or sad. At the same time, however, each one of us has heard different voices in our head. One voice or emotion overpowers any logic or sense the other mind is trying to make.
Yogic texts call it the various states of consciousness, and Sankhya yoga also refers to it as the three modes of material nature. Unless we train the conscious mind to tap into its higher state of consciousness, it will always be crushed by the violent crocodile mind. A story exists in scriptures where an innocent elephant (a wise but untrained mind) called upon Mahavishnu (a higher power) to escape from the clutches of a crocodile (a ruthless mind).
Further, this elephant lived in a garden on Trikuta Parvata, a three-peaked mountain (three modes of material nature). How to tap into this so called higher state of consciousness? Reflection (chintan), meditation (dhyana), self-study (svadhyaya), devotion (bhakti) and mindfulness (smriti) are some of the methods for lasting effects. And the beauty is that none of these are mutually exclusive. Indeed, together they carve an incredibly rewarding path for you. The trouble is that when you need them the most, they do not seem to work. For, you can give all the ammunition to someone, but it is of no use to them if they do not know how to use it. For such moments, here are three SOS methods.
Shift your Attention
Do not analyse, deliberate, reflect, justify or cogitate. Simply shift your attention. If you cannot win over the crocodile, then do not go near the water either. Even if you brought a gun or a knife to fight, you could still end up hurt and injured. It is not worth it. Just shift your attention. If you do not dwell on the thought, it cannot harm you.
Hold a self-dialogue
Tell your mind that you understand its urgency and plight. That you accept it has something pressing to tell you, but for now you must focus on the task at hand. Promise your mind that you will come back to it and listen to whatever it has to say two hours later, or the next day. Just remember to honour your commitment by paying your mind a visit at the appointed hour. You will realise it has much less to say once the storm has passed.
Bring it to the Fore
This works best if you have championed the art of concentration. The crocodile mind attacks when you are not aware. When an old incident or memory bothers you, do not let your mind keep talking in the background and ruin your day. Drop everything and say to your mind, “I am listening. Talk to me. It seems you have something to tell me. I am all ears.” Now, if without getting distracted and analytical, you can pay complete attention to your mind, you will discover that it has practically nothing to say.
It is quiet now. It is like that kid who is running around, bumbling and interrupting constantly, the same kid who does not let you talk when you have guests over, but the moment you give him/her all the attention and say okay, “Sing this poem,” they go all quiet and shy. Most importantly, if you forget all of the above, just remember this one simple thing: when it comes to old incidents, your mind has no new information to give you.
You already know, whatever it is going to tell you.
Why waste your time listening to something you already know?
Let me repeat: when it comes to your past, your mind has nothing new to tell you.
Do not let it infringe upon your beautiful life and time. When the mind is down, it feels like a crumpled piece of paper, but you will be amazed at how resilient your mind can be. If anything, it is a sponge that just does not lose its shape no matter if it is creased or trampled on. But yes, you have to protect it from excessive heat and friction. And that is what training of the mind is.
The methods I elucidated are designed to do just that: protect your mind.
- Om Swami