“Stilling the mind”
One of the most useful techniques I have ever learned comes from one of the best books I ever read, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”
This book predates Hinduism, or at least the organized version of Hinduism. In it the author methodically describes the whole development of the human mind, or awareness, through discipline and the practice of a variety of mental techniques. The goal is “yoga, or union”, and complete peace and joy, immensely expanded awareness, and an experience of heaven while right here, alive in our body.
In his teaching Patanjali deals with the most fundamental concepts of human awareness and describes them in detail. His focus is on practical techniques and understanding, rather than any religious belief or doctrine. He discusses some of the weaknesses people fall into, and how to deal with them. One of the first things he teaches students is to be aware of the reactionary tendencies of the mind.
” The sequence of mental states is as follows: the mind reacts to that which is seen, then follows the moment of mind control. Then ensues a moment wherein the Chitta ( mental “stuff”, energy, ) responds to both these factors. Finally, these pass away and the perceiving consciousness ( soul ) has full sway.”
“Through the cultivation of this habit of mind there will eventuate a steadiness of spiritual perception.”
quotes from Light of the Soul, by Alice Bailey, translated and commentary of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
The reactionary tendency of the human mind is a source of tremendous conflict and pain in human life. This is not necessary suffering. It is caused by a lack of understanding.
Imagine your whole mind like a single nerve. If you touch it even softly, it will recoil. This is an experiment many people do in biology class. They touch a frog muscle with electricity and see it jump. The mind is a very sensitive instrument, and it has a nature to react quickly, then recover. This causes one big problem; people don’t check that reaction. They do not put a reign on that mental reaction. By being hasty in this way, people fail to take advantage of their inner wisdom that comes from our soul.
What Patanjali is saying is that after we perceive something, if we pause, take it in, let our intuition and deepest awareness respond. We have a part of our being that is super-aware, sees a bigger picture, and is detached, objective. This part of us is much more inclusive than our minds. The mind is only a tool for gathering SOME of the information we need. The true source of awareness that gives rise to the mind will flow through if we quiet the mind.
Patanjali states that when our true awareness is able to flow through as a result of practice, what results is a steady flow of awareness, unimpeded, that brings complete clarity and joy. Vigorous emotional or mental reactions that occur when we experience things are often related to fear. There is no need to fear, because our true nature is immortal, indestructible, and full of joy.
Learning to put a brake on the mind’s tendency to react will save you massive amounts of time, lead to better relationships, and bring you wisdom.
When people do not control the fast reaction of the mind to a sense impression, they do many of the following;
become afraid when it is not justified by facts
worry about things they cannot control
get into arguments, start wars, harm others
jump to conclusions with incomplete information
make faulty decisions, fail to learn important things, ignore good advice
develop wild theories before knowing facts, become biased or prejudiced
Controlling the reaction of the mind will:
help you learn much, much faster.
understand others better
bring you much more personal peace, and harmony with others
allow you to quickly reach a deep meditative state when you try
develop your intuition and inner knowledge
enable you to experience exquisite joy from all normal sense impressions. A slight taste of good food, or a simple touch, brings great joy.
To help control mental reactions, take a deep breath, or more than one, when you hear or see something that either upsets you or provokes an emotional reaction. Remember, the mind tends to react. Hold back a moment, think, feel. Then respond more calmly and appropriately. The mind “rides” in its vehicle the body. If you take care of the body, with good food, rest, meditation, water, and other nutrients, the mind will tend to be more relaxed to begin with and easier to control
The mind is a great servant, but a poor master. Get a handle on it, and use it well.