Controlling the Mind

Recently I had an intense discussion with a friend about dealing with our own minds, and helping others deal with theirs — makes it sounds rather like have pets, or children doesn’t it?

Occasionally over the years I have been offered cute kittens, and I have always said no my argument being that if I was going to have kittens I might as well have kids. At least you can travel with children. Then one day I saw an offer on my work intranet offering to give away a worm farm. I considered the level of responsibility required to keep worms as pets, and decided I could handle that! If you don’t feed them for two weeks they survive fine. So now I have a worm farm and my veggie garden loves me for it. But although the worms are quiet and undemanding, my declining the responsibility of anything needier still left me having to handle a raucous and demanding companion – my mind! It is a grasshopper one that jumps from one subject to another and tries to pull everyone along with it. Some people speak of “the monkey mind” because of this general tendency that all minds have, but mine is a particularly hyperactive one.

mind is thinking many things at one time

In addition I was so under its control that I spend years ruminating on life’s problems and becoming sometimes angry and almost always depressed that more socially acceptable, but often unconscious version of anger.

In the yogic texts we find the message that there is no greater enemy than the uncontrolled mind.  And there is also no greater friend than the controlled mind. The question is, how to control it! You can take your dog to dog training school. And your children, well, hopefully you are able to train them before they grow up and it becomes too late, they now have to deal with their own training. But your mind is always with you, and if you don’t train it, you become its slave. In fact that is how most of us live, most of the time. Our mind puts up the pictures, the images, the desires, and we follow them, “Let yourself go to Pizza Hut” was a last century’s advertiser’s way of harnessing our slavery to our mind so they could money out of it.

And it’s not even consistent in its desires. It hosts myriad conflicting options, and switches from one to the other with no concern for the fact that you may have to double back on your tracks to follow its commands.   I really want to get married… now I really want to get divorced.

Or it demands two things at once, but you cannot fulfill both demands.

Command 1: Be slim, be skinny, it’s so important, no one will love you, or even like you if you aren’t.

Command 2: Eat chocolate; I want more chocolate, more chocolate. But I feel sick already. Command 1 again: I don’t care, eat more chocolate.

Another conflicting set of desires:

Desire voice 1: That girl is giving you the eyes… go for it man.

Desire voice 2: You care about your girlfriend, don’t blow it man, you’ll lose her.

Desire voice 1: You’re not married yet, you’re free man, do it while you can, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

Or it may not be that blatant, that conscious, your mind may be sneakier,

Suggestion 1; The poor girl is really depressed she needs someone to talk to;

Suggestion 2: You don’t want your girlfriend to feel threatened and jealous

Suggestion 1: She’ll understand, I’m just helping a drowning soul, I have to help her.

 

A side point, but still related: Isn’t it amazing how it’s always the young good looking ones that men are impelled to help in this way? I watched a ridiculous scenario playing out on a documentary once, about a supposed tantric yogi (that is a whole other subject) who would give counseling to the young and pretty distressed ladies, which included sexual activities. An older overweight distressed woman was counseled without the extra activities… she was given a pillow to pound instead. This person, supposedly a yogi, was so unaware of how his mind and desires were playing him like a patsy. (Please don’t take this as a sexist stand, one could give examples of women using men in synonymous manners… as in, isn’t it amazing how the young women, who just happen to like being a support to an older man, seem to run into the wealthy or famous ones…)

The mature yogi is aware of the tactics of the mind, and is very aware of the difference between him/herself and the mind. The mature yogi is not a slave, a fall guy, for the desires of the mind. The mature yogi is aware that there is a higher facility, the buddhi, or intelligence, which should be used to control the mind and the activities of the body. If one wants peace and happiness, and if one wants to advance in yogic maturity, the mind may be used as a tool, but should not be a master.

How then does one come to this point? Well, I’m not a great example, except that, having come from such a low base line, some improvement is evident. I am no longer prone to eating 2 king size bars of chocolate in one sitting, perhaps with a sugar drunk sleep on the floor in between. Nor do I spend my life, as I did for many years, bemoaning my miserable state, depressed, blaming God, angry that I even existed. The hold my mind has over me has somewhat lessened.

There is more than one method capable of loosening the binds the mind has over the atma, the self, the living entity, me. In the past the process of ashtanga yoga, (not the athletic version of gymnastic style dynamic asana classes, but the very exacting and demanding process of developing control over the body and mind by technical means) was possible for some few very determined yogis. But in today’s age of turmoil and urban living this is beyond difficult, and those fool hardy enough to try are pretty much doomed to failure.

So the process recommended for this day and age is to take shelter of mantra yoga. It still requires discipline and determination, but the tool of mantra yoga is so powerful that the mind becomes gradually tamed. In the process of ashtanga yoga there are guiding principles but the work must be done alone. In the process of mantra yoga the mantra itself has power. It is analogous to trying to wash dirt off your hands. You may rub and rub your hands together, and eventually over time perhaps the dirt will come off as the skin rubs off, but if you run your hands under water while rubbing, they will be clean very quickly. Even if you don’t rub, but just leave them under running water, it may take longer than if you do some work yourself, but it will still be faster than just rubbing your hands, working hard without water.

So work must be done, and you must go to the water, or bring it to you, but you are not reliant on your own will power, determination, strength and bodily prowess. Imperfect and incomplete though my progress is, I know what I am speaking about when I say, try it, it works.

 

A Highly Effective 5-Minute Life Uplifting Technique!

A Highly Effective 5-Minute Mood Balancing, Life Uplifting Breathing Technique!

There are so many ways in which our moods can change – we can easily have a bad hair day, or get out of bed on the wrong side. Or on the upside, feel excited by this or that event or new found passion!  What’s not so easy is to keep an even or balanced mood, which to some might seem dull, but is actually quite desirable when one is feeling ‘exhausted’ from the ever changing influences around us, and can even be most pleasantly sublime.

Much of the time we don’t make the connection between what we are doing in our lives and how it makes us feel both in the short term and long term. The connection between sugar or chocolate and that instant burst of energy or even ‘happiness’ we get from it, followed later by feeling irritable or sluggish, is fairly well evident and easy to experience. Less obvious might be how the sounds we hear, either by choice or inadvertently – going to shops with the radio playing or listening to the latest hit in the car/on the bus going to work or school – can change the way we feel. The connection between what our mind and body absorbs or endures – food, sound, temperatures, wind, reading the news, digital technology and dealing with others – can affect our moods, make us feel up or down. And for some people no matter what they do they’ll continue feeling down and this is often the result of long term exposure to the things that wear us out, or perhaps a view of ourselves or the world which is unrealistic. This is often why we find ourselves feeling depressed. Sometimes is not easy at all to bounce out of these intense and persistent feelings of unhappiness. So many messages out there tell us to do whatever makes us ‘happy’ but generally when we go for that the happiness is fleeting or it actually takes us in the opposite direction to what we intended.

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The world is full of stuff

Wherever you go, wherever you look, there it is! Stuff.

Whether you live in a remote mountain village or in a sprawling metropolis there is stuff all around you. Not only old, “I already know about you stuff”, but new stuff, all the time, coming at you! Whether it’s on a donkey coming up the mountain or whether it’s being flashed at you from one of the buildings on the Ginza, there is stuff being produced every moment of every day so we can consume more and more of what we already have.

Apple have made and sold 500 million smartphones but why do we throw away 155 million a year. So they can make more so we can buy more, sounds crazy, well yes it is, isn’t it?

The newly built Super Brand Mall in Shanghai has 13 floors over an area of 250,000 square meters.  What can you buy there? Anything, everything!  Any brand name of anything made or produced can be bought there. You name it, from the lowly bag of potato chips to an expensive racing car, you can buy it.

We all want stuff. In fact we are convinced that if we don’t get stuff we will somehow be inferior to others. We will be considered to be one of the less fortunate people on the planet. I am not sure who it is that we hold this imaginary yard stick up against but it drives us to work so hard so we can have enough money to purchase things that we don’t need, so we can be considered equal with people we don’t really care about.

But it is all relative, it isn’t just the rich wanting more or the middleclass wanting to have a better station in life, it is the poorest person in the poorest village who also wants stuff. Often their desire is based on lack of food or housing which is a lot different from someone like Imelda Marcos who, on leaving the Philippines, was found to have accumulated over 3000 pairs of shoes, not to mention the thousand handbags and the fifteen mink coats. But once a poor person has some more stuff then they also get caught up in the relentless drive to accumulate what the rest of us have, houses, cars, clothes, shoes,  jewellery, TV’s, smartphones, IPods, sports equipment, money in the bank  and every other imaginable piece of stuff that we purchase in the millions every year.

How can we eat a three course meal, leaving the table groaning from over consumption but on the way home when we pass the Chocolate Patisserie we feel compelled to enter and purchase a slice of the Black Forest Gateaux?

In the US alone 30% of all food is thrown away which equates to $43.3 billion a year.  The wealthiest countries waste 222 million tonnes of food a year compared to the entire food consumption of the Sub Sahara African area which is 230 million tonnes. How can this be, that we, the wealthy nations throw away almost the same amount of food that 51 countries with a collective population of over 1.1 billion people consume, but who still struggle with some of the highest poverty figures in the world.

Why do we do this? Why do we want new shoes and new clothes even though we have wardrobes of these already? The sports fiend always needs to upgrade the golf clubs, the surf board, the racing bike or the latest Lycra ensemble. Why especially in the western world are we driven to obtain more stuff than we can ever need in a lifetime?  What drives us to spend our entire lives working in jobs we hate, for long hours for small rates of pay just so we can purchase the next IPhone, computer, flat screen computer or car?

Every 15 seconds an IPhone gets thrown away! Why do we absolutely have to have the next one and the next one? And where do these and our other ‘must have’ electronic gadgets go when we toss them away? The Chinese village of Guiyu knows very well what happens as the inhabitants have made their living from, dismantling, stripping, smeltering and recycling these very objects. But the toll of our excesses reaches very far and the lead content in the blood of Guiyu’s children is 54% higher than that of children in the nearby town of Chendian. The environment is absolutely polluted and the soil has been saturated with lead, chromium, tin, and other heavy metals. Discarded electronics lie in pools of toxins that leach into the groundwater making it so polluted that the water is undrinkable.

In the Western world in general, we are educated to think that once I obtain certain things I will be happy. On every piece of advertising that comes into our sights this is confirmed. If you smoke this brand of cigarettes you will automatically attract a very buxom female who just happens to come draped over a very expensive car. Coca Cola advertising most probably reaches the height of false promises. From slogans such as ‘The Real Thing’ to ‘Open Happiness’ they promise that if you consume their product of syrup, sugar and water you too will be able to leap in the sand with beautiful young men and women and dive into turquoise waters on an exotic island where the sun always shines.

Coca Cola sell 1.8 Billion servings of this formula every day and although the research varies to produce one serving costs the company between 2 and 6 cents.

A personal experience of mine here in New Zealand is of refugees whom upon arriving in New Zealand, felt  so unbelievably fortunate that they could afford Coca Cola so easily, were putting it into their babies bottles instead of milk.

Coca Cola uses approximately 3 and a half million litres of water every year. 1/3 of this goes in their product and the 2/3 remainder for factory and industrial usage. When we, the planet is short of water who will want to drink, bathe or cook in Coca Cola?

What are the things we really need to sustain our bodies so we are healthy?  Most of the people I know would say fresh water, clean air, and good healthy food.  These things will keep my body healthy but what about that part of my existence that cannot be seen?

Society’s leaders put forward the notion that if I get things for my body I will be happy. Such misguided guides do not make any distinction between the physical and spiritual needs. They cannot because they do not have this knowledge.

Yes, it is true that my physical self does require food, clothing, housing and all the other items necessary to function in society, but not this excessive, disproportionate drive to acquire more and more stuff.

What about me? Me, the self within? I am the person inhabiting this particular body. I am separate from the body and mind and I am made from a different substance. I am a spiritual being, everlasting, not temporary like the flesh and blood I am dwelling in.

I, the self yearn for spiritual connection and being uninformed as to my real nature, I falsely identify as the body. Try as I might none of the things available for the body will give me the happines or peace I am yearning and searching for. I need spiritual food. I need to congregate with people who are aware of their real identity and who are willing to curb the flow of incessant desires that misdirect us to try and satisfy ourselves with the impermanent.

I need to regularly take spiritual food in the form of spiritual sound and to stay close to the practitioners of spiritual practices who are able to step back from all the false promises and see them for what they really are. Immerse yourself in these sacred sounds sung by Jagad Guru in this calming video.

There is not one earthly item that can guarantee me peace of mind. These things belong to the temporary, they will not last and if I go searching for long lasting satisfaction in them I am undertaking a fool’s quest.

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