You Are Not Your Mind
"For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy."
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Have you ever wondered about why your mind works the way it does, and how it comes up with all of its scattered, random and half-organized thoughts? Where are all of these thoughts coming from, and what's the reason they are there? Many of our thoughts originate from experiences we've had in the past, but the mind will also come up with dreamlike scenarios about events that have yet to take place in our lives.
We will find ourselves in a scenario for a future event, and we will be fully imagining the experience of what it would be like to live in that scenario. Some of these situations can be pleasant, while others are very nightmarish.
We've all had experiences where we can be eating, sleeping, walking down the street, studying, working, listening to music or even engaging in a conversation with someone else, and the mind will begin to drift away to somewhere else. We didn't consciously decide to let the mind wander, but it did. It just left us standing there talking to someone while it decided to go away for a while. This happens all the time!
This happens for prolonged durations during the dreaming state. Our dreams often seem so vivid and detailed, but they weren't our conscious creations. The mind conjures them up and gets very creative. The Bhagavad Gita describes the tendency of the mind as follows: "For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy."
By referring to the mind as a friend or an enemy, the Gita treats the mind as if it were something different from us. Many times it can sure feel as if someone else, or even a whole group of people, is carrying on elaborate dialogues up there that have little to do with our present reality.
Many Hindu texts create a distinction between the physical body, the mind and intelligence. The mind is often compared to an impulsive child who isn't capable of making proper decisions, and the intelligence is likened to a parent that helps the mind choose the appropriate and healthy course of action.
A mind that isn't given proper attention and is allowed to run wild can cause havoc in our lives. The uncontrolled mind is the sole source of fear, stress and anger in our lives. We've all had the experience of recalling instances where others might have physically, financially or emotionally hurt us. Even though we tell ourselves that "it's over and that there's no need to continue to remember such instances," we find that the mind forcibly brings these thoughts back to the forefront of our consciousness.
The Gita explains that we can either become liberated with the help of our mind or completely degrade our consciousness. Believe it or not, the choice is ours. It may be possible to avoid unpleasant situations, uncomfortable places or unfriendly people, but the mind isn't something we can escape.
The mind lives within us and controls our thoughts, emotions and actions. We go to sleep with it every night and we wake up with it every morning. If we're going to spend that much time with someone, doesn't it make sense to develop a friendship with that individual? The question arises: How do you develop a friendship with someone that you can't see or touch or really even talk to?
First of all, we have to acknowledge that we have a mind and not that we are the mind. Second, we need to be able to admit that we have very little control over the mind's activities. Thirdly, we need to know that we're never going to have complete control over the mind.
Of course, we're not talking about controlling the mind in some forceful, unnatural way. What we want to accomplish is a harmonious relationship between the mind, intelligence and the soul, so that these different components of our being can be on the same page more often. This will lead to a happier and more peaceful existence. This, of course, requires training and practice. Nothing worth achieving ever comes easy.
During the mantra meditation session that I lead at Columbia, I encourage participants to incorporate a regulated practice of meditation into their daily lives. After all, we make time to clothe and feed the body, so why not take time to feed and nourish the mind? Even a short regiment of 10-15 minutes a day will gradually reduce the hurricane-like winds in the mind and grant the mind greater levels of focus and steadiness, which is something we can all use a bit more of.
Gadadhara Pandit Dasa (also known as Pandit) has been a monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition since September of 1999. After spending six months in different monasteries in India, Pandit moved to a temple/monastery in the East Village of Manhattan, where he currently resides. He currently serves as the first-ever Hindu chaplain of Columbia University and New York University. His activities at Columbia include facilitating weekly vegetarian cooking classes, discussions on the classic Eastern work Bhagavad-Gita, and sessions on the art and practice of mantra meditation. For more from Pandit, check out his Web site at nycpandit.com.