In the book titled “Light on Life – The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom”, the author BKS Iyengar dedicates an entire chapter to a discussion about “the mental body”. Specifically, the author delves into the working of the mind, and the elements that constitute the mental body. The intersection of the physical mind, the ego, intelligence, and our consciousness, is where the mental body is said to reside.
We are all too familiar with the mind as the pathway for thoughts. Our behavior, constructive and destructive, seems to be dependent on our thoughts. The mind tends to run wild with thoughts all day long, and very often, the more we try to control them, the more frustrated we get. Some of us may have tried techniques like meditation, mindfulness, self-awareness and more, in an attempt to bring our wandering thoughts under control. In fact, this may be one of the toughest tasks of all – “to still the movement and fluctuations of our mind that disturb our consciousness”.
Let us step back a bit. If we want to repair something that is not working well for us, it would behoove us to first know how it works. Similarly, an understanding of how our minds actually work, can provide us the key(s) to the origin of our thoughts. We can then employ tools and techniques, which may help us still their movement. If we practice enough, and master these techniques, we would have overcome a significant obstacle on our spiritual journey – the distracted, unruly mind.
Indulge me for a few moments. Imagine a quiescent lake, perfectly still, with no ripples on its surface, or below the surface. Quiescent and translucent. If one were to throw a stone into the lake, the stone would sink, and cause waves on the surface that would appear as concentric circles around the point of impact. In addition, the sinking stone would create waves in the depths of the waters – waves that an observer standing on the shore would not see clearly, but they exist. So, there is breadth and depth to the disturbances created by the stone falling into the lake.
Now, imagine, that our mind is like that lake. It is constantly being pelted by stones, which are the external inputs from our five senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight. In addition, memory from past inputs, stored by our brain, creates additional inputs. Every input creates surface waves, which manifest as our external actions, and are perceived as positive or negative reactions by others. Every input to the mind also creates depth waves, which may be said to manifest as inner reactions, say, our emotions. It would seem that one way to lessen the disturbances in our mind, is to decrease the inputs that it receives – the fewer the inputs, the fewer the chances that surface waves (reactions) and depth waves (emotions) would perturb us.
This is perhaps why practices like self-care, silence, stillness, solitude and such are on the rise in modern society. We are waking up to the awareness, the realization, that unless we teach and train ourselves to modulate our inputs, our mental ‘lakes’ have no chance to withstand the perturbations. In the absence of modulation, we slowly degenerate into a lake full of dangerous algae, whose water becomes undrinkable. And if our minds cannot be free of perturbation, even for a few moments, we have no chance of experiencing the Joy that comes with inner peace. It is inner peace that opens the door to that awareness, to that consciousness, to that joy – which lies beyond the mind – and gives credence and credibility to our spiritual practice(s).
Thank you for reading this far. It is perhaps self-contradictory that I talk about “stilling the mind” while giving you even more “food for thought”! But I won’t stop here. I invite you, on behalf of the #SpiritChat community, to join us on Sunday August 17th at 9amET in our weekly twitter chat. We will talk about the importance of overcoming mental chatter, developing a quiescent mind, and its relationship to enhanced consciousness.
My friends, my brothers and sisters – may your lake be still, and may peace and light be yours…