The mind is the filter through which we gain experiences of the world. Sense perceptions, joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, success and failure, gain and loss, are all experienced in our mind. It is a fact that without the mind, there cannot be any experience. In deep sleep, for instance, when the mind is not functioning, there are no experiences of the world.
Our minds sculpt our experiences, and our experiences shape our lives.
We all want to be free from sorrow and be happy. Since happiness is experienced in the mind, the importance of minding the mind becomes obvious.
Importance of Minding the Mind
We may say we are free to choose how to live our lives, but the truth is that we are at slaves to our own minds. Whatever thoughts rise up in the mind, we readily accept, believe and follow.
We identify with the thoughts and claim them as “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”.
For example, the mind says, “Let’s get a nice, hot cup of cappuccino.” We immediately agree and start imagining drinking an aromatic, steaming cup of cappuccino. We say, ”Oh, I would love a cappuccino now.”
When we hear some bad or sad news, we identify with them and say, ”That makes me sad,” or “I am sad.” When someone says something we think is negative, we say, “That hurt my feelings.” Or, we say, “He makes me so angry!” A colleague claims ownership of an idea that wasn’t his. We react with indignation and say, “That idea was mine.”
A fearful thought suddenly passes through the mind and we are gripped with fear.
Thoughts are flimsy nothings until we make them real. They come and go if we don’t pay attention to them. The problem is we take them as true and engage in them, thereby giving them the power to persecute us.
We need to pause a little and question whether the thoughts are useful, truthful and in alignment with our goals, values and convictions.
Desires disturb the peace
Thoughts disturb our peace of mind when they form into desires.
Desires are formed when we repeatedly think about something that we like. These desires create disturbances in the mind that can only be quietened when we get the object of our desire.
But there is another way we can quiet the mind. Here’s a little story to illustrate this fact…
An Indian Tale
There is an ancient tale from India about a monk named Manki. One day, a thought came to his mind, “Why don’t I get a piece of land and grow my own crops? Then I won’t have to go to the town and beg for alms.”
A well-wisher give him a small plot of land and two bulls. One day, as he was tilling the land, a wild camel emerged from the nearby forest and charged at his bulls. In fright, they broke free of their reins and started to run away. Manki immediately ran after his bulls, calling them to back.
As he was running, the foolishness of his actions dawned on him. Immediately, he stopped in his tracks and thought to himself, “Instead of seeking inner peace and God as a monk should, I am running after the bulls!”
He traced the source of his present sad state to identification with the initial idea of getting a piece of land. Repetition of that idea gave rise to a strong desire.
He declared to himself, “O desire, I know your source, You verily arise from fanciful ideas. I shall no more entertain them. How then can you trouble me?”
All troubles start with little thoughts. When we identify with the our thoughts, we get sucked in to the drama they create.
Finding peace of mind
The way to inner peace and mastery over the mind is to begin with cultivating a greater self-awareness.
We must remember that we are the masters, and that our minds are merely the instruments through which we gain knowledge of the world and transact with it.
Spiritual master Swami Tejomayananda gives us some good advice, “One who knows he is different from the mind, and a witness to the thoughts, remains unaffected by the mind.”
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