Stilling the Mind
The following is a talk given by Shri Anandi Ma at a public program in CT.
Trying to hold the mind is like trying to hold the wind — it’s a very difficult task. We all know that the mind is an aspect of energy that is extremely unstable and very strong and firm. That is why the yogis recommend that you not run after it. If a child is running and the mother starts to chase the child, he or she will run even farther. But if the mother stays where she is, the child will run around a little but will come back to her. Although the mind is strong, it is not impossible to win over. With practice and patience, it is definitely possible to gain complete control of the mind.
Detachment & Practice
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says it is possible to still the mind through constant practice and detachment. Detachment means to not stay bound to things at this worldly level of consciousness. Although material things may appear very beautiful and attractive, you need to look beyond them. See the roots; see how these things are limited, and go to the source of creation itself. Patanjali muni, in his Yoga Sutras, gives the same advice — through practice, studying regularly, and constantly cultivating detachment, it is possible to still the mind.
A Regular Life
The yogis say that first you should lead a very regular life. As all the daily activities of life become regular, the mind will become still. The recommendation is to have a fixed schedule that you follow that as closely as possible every day. With this practice, you will reach a point where you don’t have to think of what needs to be done. At the appropriate time, whatever needs to be done will come to your mind automatically.
We already do certain things in life regularly because there is no way out of them — going to a particular job at a particular time and place everyday is a must. If your habits of eating, sleeping, resting, and so forth are regular as well, then the physical body benefits tremendously and this has an overall impact on the mind and the spiritual life as well. The yogis say that regular practice in daily life is critical in order to obtain the subtle benefits of spiritual practice.
Whatever practice you adopt, do it regularly, daily, at the same time, in the same place, using the same sitting posture. As much as possible, there should be no break in the routine. Just as when you pour oil it flows continuously, without breaks, your practice should flow continuously. Even if your practices are short, they should be continuous. For example, daily meditation of five minutes is much more beneficial than meditating an hour today, ten minutes tomorrow, not at all the third day. Fluctuation, in the long run, does not give the results that daily meditation of even five minutes produces. If you have to dig for oil or water and you dig a few feet some days and skip totally for months and then start again, the goal that you want to achieve will be delayed an indefinite period of time. Even if you dig a couple of inches a day but do it in a regular fashion, you will achieve your goal much faster.
Regular practice creates a regular, balanced mind. That’s why the yogis say not to keep on changing the time, place, and posture for meditation. Use the same asan (cloth or cushion) and use the same technique. If you are using a mantra, keep the same mantra. Whatever form of the divine you relate to, keep that constant. One path. One teacher. These are the basic guidelines and the keys to success.
When you do this continuously, the mind, regardless of how strong and stubborn it may be, will definitely be brought under control. That control will manifest not only in spiritual practices but also extend to your daily life.
Observe & Reflect
Another tool given by the yogis to win the mind is to observe your mind, to see what it is doing. Watch it constantly. Watch all that it does and all that goes through it. The yogis say that at the end of the day, just before going to sleep, think of all that has happened during the day — all the thoughts that have come, all the actions you have performed. Go through the entire routine. It is possible that you may not remember each and every little thing that happened during the day, but reflect deeply on the major events that come up prominently. Then “talk” to the mind. For all the positive, noble, and pure thoughts you have had during the day, praise the mind, give it a “pat it on the back.” In that way, you will increase your energy. For all those actions or thoughts that are keeping you away from your final goal of spiritual realization, talk to the mind, saying, “This is not good. Stop that.”
This is a simple but very powerful technique when continued for some time. Eventually only positive samskaras (habits formed as a result of past karma) that lie deep within will be brought to the surface. All that is negative will calm down, eventually be suppressed, and dissolve. More and more the mind will have only positive thoughts, and with that you will perform only positive actions.
Focus on the Positive
For many people, especially when they begin to practice meditation, there is a serious “storm” in the mind. It tries to bring everything to the surface, but don’t be afraid to constantly keep up with it and bring out the positive. That effort can remove the negative and suppress it completely. It is likely that the mind will resist tremendously at the start. It may take you completely away from the goal, but you must be stronger and lead it as you want.
If a child has been influenced by some negative company, it is difficult to change the child so long as he or she is under that influence. The first step is to remove the child from the negative situation. Then, with the thoughts and ideas of those who are truly loving and caring for the child, the child will eventually be able to see the clear picture and transform. The mind is in a similar situation. For years, even lifetimes, we have let it wander, and it has collected a lot of thoughts, both positive and negative. The negative is what we have to deal with, but it is not an overnight process. If you go home tonight and say, “Starting tomorrow I’m going to be only positive; nothing negative is going to come to my mind,” that is not going to happen. This is a slow, gradual process.
The first step is to gradually remove the negative and then to raise the positive. Once the positive is dominant, you may channel the mind and its energy toward the supreme goal. Once you reach that point, then nothing negative will come up, even if there are other energies externally that may try to influence the mind negatively.
Finally, whatever spiritual entity appeals to your heart — whether it’s a form of the divine energy or something impersonal — constantly relate to that form or symbol. This practice will also help to still the mind.
May the infinite energy inspire you to practice constantly, give you the sense of freedom from worldly bondage, and bring you to the ultimate goal.
Click here for Ma’s 2013 public program schedule.