Tame Your Mind
Feb 08, 2013 12:46PM
● By Joan Kaplan
Everyone would like to stop searching for the keys to living a fulfilling life. We’ve already explored various methods and collected a storehouse of knowledge. But have we really experienced an improvement in our lives? We already know the importance of healthy diet, exercise and a positive outlook, but are we missing something?
So many endeavors initially seem interesting and inspiring, but after we come down from the “high” of an inspirational weekend, what comes next? Are we merely entertaining ourselves?
It would be great news to find out that the most important vehicle, no matter what other avenues of interest we pursue, is right under our noses and has been there all along. It’s a vehicle that is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good at the end. It will never become outdated, irrelevant, lose its popularity and we can never grow out of its benefit. Once we understand this key, it can become our best friend for the rest of this lifetime. If we forget it, we can always return to it.
This key is called taming the mind. I warn you, though, it is not a path for sissies. It means getting to know the workings of our own minds intimately and seeing how the principle, “through our thoughts we create our world” actually operates. It is what teachers, sages and wise ones have been saying for centuries in different ways. It is the subject of popular books with a variation on the same theme every decade. It is much deeper and more profound than you think. You can practice in whatever religion or spiritual tradition you prefer, but you must have this essential element to create health and peace in your life. This is what the true warrior’s path is about. The real battlefield is the inner world.
No beliefs, no religion, no rules; just you and your mind. Sound easy? Alas, perhaps it is easier to remain asleep than to wake up; to entertain our minds with conjecture rather than to meet our minds straight on. Perhaps it’s like asking a fish to notice the water it has always lived in.
Wavering between hopeful fantasies and fearful doubts is a mark of an untamed mind. We can learn steps to bring that wildness under control and begin to learn how to be the master of our own house. This is what is meant by the statement, “the mind is a good servant, but not a good master.” Through mindfulness, we can tame our mind and train it in ways that will bring more satisfaction.
Here’s a good place to start:
• Conscious breathing: Bring your attention to your breathing. Sit with the spine straight. Take a nice comfortable deep breath, counting slowly (1-2-3...) on the inbreath and slowly (1-2-3...) on the outbreath. Feel your body, especially the air expanding your diaphragm. Do this for five breaths a minimum of three times a day to begin. Slowly increase number of times per day.
• As you become more comfortable with breathing and counting breaths, begin to just follow the breathing without the counting and begin to notice feelings and sensations in your body.
• Nurture positive thoughts. When you notice negativity in your thinking, breathe and correct.
• Be kind to and forgiving of yourself. Stop judging yourself and others.
• Be authentic. There is no one you have to be; just relax and be yourself.
We create the quality of our lives through the activity of our minds. Or, to quote one of my wonderful teachers, “everything is dependent upon the condition of the mind.” Let’s learn to work with our obstacles in a positive way and create happiness, inside and out.