Please don’t feed the mind

Wed. March 27th, 2019 5:50 pm

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I had a perception that psychological challenges, which, in the west and in our modern times are typically assessed with counseling or some sort of psychotherapeutic delineation, aren’t so much mental maladies as they are calls from the soul, piercing through the veil of maya illusion in an attempt to seize our lost focus and reorient it towards the core truth of our existence.

In the Eastern traditions, psychological malady is recognized in this manner as it has been for ages. In primal or aboriginal cultures, a witch doctor or shaman might be consulted to eradicate demons or bad influences. The perspective taken is that the one suffering the affliction is always, at their base, well, and that help sought is simply to return them to wellness.

Western psychiatry takes a similar bent. There is always wellness buried behind the cobwebs of mental delusion.

I paused on this note while watching a film, in which the main character had a change of heart, a resulting change of character, and ultimately wellness and balance. The character had suffered from loneliness all his life, and so his actions were perceived as irrational because they were so over the top by conventional standards. The character simply was seeking love, to be loved, to be empowered to give it, and by so doing compelled others around him to avoid his company. This perplexed the main character, compelling him to behave in manners more extreme than in the beginning. Eventually, understanding between he and the others was achieved, and in that moment, psychological healing occurred, and the love that was so evasive was found, albeit possessing a different semblance than expected or initially envisioned.

This is true of all of us. It’s a human condition. We behave in manners that don’t always jive with our contemporaries – our family, friends, colleagues, community others – until we are able to recognize a need to initiate only the simplest change, and that is to allow the heart to open ever so slightly, which is all is needed for the light of right understanding to shine in all its brilliance.

As I contemplated this, I looked within myself and saw a pattern of similar irrational behavior that has puppeteered me my whole life. Then I recalled other instances when I could see these patterns in others. The whole of human behavior seems to be an expressive plea for the experience of love. Why is it that our species innately behaves so witlessly? We tend to bounce from external stimuli to external stimuli while our mind contrives what it perceives to be appropriate responses. Some of our behaviors are predicated on survival instinct. Some of them arise from fear. Some rise from a compellation to belong, to be wanted, to be needed. All of the latter arises from an innate desire to serve.

In a conversation about meditation with one of my colleagues, I was asked “But how do you make the mind stop?” The answer is simple: Don’t feed it. The mind doesn’t stop. It’s a mind. Its function is to think and create thoughts. One simply needs to watch the mind, witness it doing its thing.

The mind is a tool. Like our fingers, legs, liver, eyes, etc, it is provided in our species to serve a function, to serve us. The situation is that humanity has largely lost the ability to recognize this. Do we use the mind to serve us for our benefit? Or, do we let the mind use us to our detriment? The latter generally prevails.

The reason Buddha, Jesus and other great sages through history stand apart is that they found the means to lasso the mind and use it the way it was intended. The mind is the interference, the static on our television. Like a TV set, we just need to know the instructions to properly tune the mind to get the best and clearest reception. When we learn this, we soon see that we are inherently capable of seeing more than anticipated. By watching mind, by just witnessing thoughts come and go like flotsam and jetsam on the surface of a buoyant ocean, the mind recognizes that it has no control over us, and humbly retreats in submission, becomes clamer and more quiet, pranaming to the greatness of the now visible soul in the capacity of the servant which it rightfully is.

Regular practice of meditation is one technique that helps to keep the mind’s activity in check. It will, by its nature, repeatedly attempt to usurp the crown of the kingdom of the soul. This morning, for example, while I was meditating, my mind wouldn’t cease! Thought after thought arose, one after another in unrelenting repetition. Now and then, a thought here and there would distract me from my inner focus, and another thought would then arise that said “Hey, now that’s a good idea!” So, while I witnessed my thoughts, I witnessed a second and third tier of thoughts arise in conjunction with one initial thought. If I had to count the number of thoughts that arose in that 20 minute meditation session, I would have to say thousands, easily.

Yet, each time, I caught myself beginning to get distracted, and promptly averted my attention back to focus on the inhalation and exhalation of my breath. Almost immediately, the storm of thoughts would evaporate like steam. And all the while, another set of thoughts subtly began to percolate.

So, thoughts don’t stop, but we can. But simply sitting still and letting go for a few brief minutes out of each day, we gradually develop an increased habit of retaining the witness state, and with each day, the mind becomes gradually quieter and more subservient. The perfection of the mind as a tool lies in this state of subservience. Everything in creation is designed to serve everything else.

Typing within a Tetris Cube

2:42 pm  On the flight to Miami. 

An hour to go. I thought of the idea of setting up a new blog. One that will span the forthcoming 8 years of Sadhana. I envision myself and the blog as an aquarium for readers to witness the unfolding transformation that a true sadhana offers. 

As of now, I want to write more, but I can’t seem to do so comfortably. The person sitting to my right has commandeered the central armrest shared between us, and the person in front of me has their seat reclined. I feel like I’m trying to type within a Tetris cube. Or a parallelogram. It’s an interesting experience as I write in a contorted position. How fun it is when you just allow yourself to experience the truth of what is and the way something it is instead of judging and delegating it to expectations of how it should be done. Certainly, I prefer more elbow room and privacy, etc, etc, but being in the circumstances as they are is a celebratory affair, unique and unlike any other. It’s another way that God manifests the varied marvel of his creation. Flowers plants, species come in varied forms. So do our experiences. If we allow experiences to be viewed as another variety in the garden of our life, it makes the way so much more enjoyable. 

I was contemplating the earlier segment about judging. This is such an important component of sadhana. That is, to witness the mind’s tendency to judge. By judging, we limit ourselves from experiencing another person for who or what they are, and potentially deprive ourselves of an invaluable gift or lesson that might be gleaned from non-judgmental interaction. By reacting, by embracing an arising anger, ….lost my train of thought there. Got distracted by observing the activity of another on the plane. It is interesting to watch how the mind wants to drag us down, to drag us into the hell of a situation. That is, at least one aspect of the mind. I believe this is how evil or darkness slips its way into our lives. It cannot be straightforward. It has to be sneaky. This is why the wise author of the book of Genesis depicted Satan as a snake. Deviousness is its hallmark characteristic. 

This same mind and the same thought in the same moment can alternately be experienced as a divinely influenced thought. Meaning, while the dark mind is attempting to distract us with thoughts or notions that are adharmic, negative, unhelpful, unworthy, and unserving, there is in that moment a light, an illumination on a hidden lesson. Sadhana is about seeing those lessons in all their subtle glory. As we enable ourselves to see them through proper practice and effort, they instead move to the fore and become the dominant thoughts of our nature, thus transforming our nature. It’s as simple as that. 

Here is an example. I wrote all that you’ve read while sitting in a contorted position in a crowded airplane. I could have sat here and written a piece that grumbled about everything mentioned in a pessimistic or negative light. Instead, I simply stated the circumstances as facts. It is what it is. And I moved on, focusing instead on the progress in yoga practice on which I’m reflecting. 

3:13 pm

The captain just announced that we’ll be landing in 30 minutes. I’m pretty impressed with American Airlines. This plane is similar to the one on which I returned from the UK in June of 2018. Time to sign off for now, to put away the laptop and prepare to land.