Focusing and Controlling the mind

By Atul Chavan - 4:17 PM

Every  human being is blessed with a body, mind and soul. We know the body, we  know we have a mind, because we are able to put it to use and see it in  action, and we can feel the existence of a spirit or soul, something  that animates and gives life to the body-mind complex, enters it at some  point after conception and exists it, at death

The mind which is deeply connected to our brain but is not the brain  alone, is a nebulous entity, known more by its actions than by its  physical presence. Science has not been able to demonstrate the anatomy  of the mind. With the mind, on the positive side, we think, we  introspect, calculate, rationalize, memorize, we study and learn, we  plan and execute, we discuss and argue, we form ideas and become  creative. Unfortunately, the mind is also the culprit for a lot of  negative thinking that happens in our lives.

The mind needs to be sharpened and developed, as any other tool, for it  to be highly effective. The mind, however, seems to have a mind of its  own, and starts spinning stories, going to the past, jumping to the  future, and is responsible for a host of emotions that we feel through  out the day---happiness, joy, peace, harmony, satisfaction, and  gratitude on the positive side, and fear, anger, jealousy, worry,  anxiety, grief, guilt, shame, regret, remorse, resentments, depression  and sorrow, on the negative side.

The  negative in life, however, seems to be more powerful and a sort of  default setting, for us. Destruction is much faster than creation. It  takes years to build an edifice, and only days to tear it down. It takes  a long time to build our reputation and social standing, but one  negative act, and all the reputation is gone. It takes nine months for a  baby to be born, and many years for the baby to become an adult, and  yet, this life can be snuffed out in minutes, if that is the fate of  that person. A simple think like a haircut takes only a few minutes, but  it takes months to grow back that much hair. These examples are only  given to emphasize that the game of life is heavily loaded in favor of  negativity or destruction, and to be positive, to be creative, to  sustain, survive and grow on this planet, is no mean task.
The mind,  with its thoughts, is powerful beyond measure and beyond imagination.  Everything that we see around us was initially only a thought in  someone's mind. Whether it is the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, the  Eiffel Tower, a beautiful garden, the most modern rocket, the wonders of  telecommunication, or even a human being---all these began with the  mind and with a thought in someone's mind. Given that thought is so  powerful, should we not learn how to control the mind and direct its  thoughts for our good and for our benefit?
Remember,  to control the mind, you need to use the mind. The mind has many  peculiarities. One, at a given time, it is capable only of one thought.  This thought needs to be replaced with another, sequentially. It cannot  think ten thoughts at once. Two, the mind is supposed to throw up around  sixty thousand thoughts daily, most of which are repeated from  yesterday, last week, last month or last year. Three, thoughts are  linked to emotions. A happy optimistic thought makes us feel good, while  a sad thought makes us feel miserable. Four--thoughts have a profound  effect on the chemicals, hormones and neuro-transmitters of our body and  the mind literally directs the body towards health or disease, with its  positivity or negativity, respectively. Five--the mind itself is made  up of a ten percent conscious mind, with which we think and plan, and a  ninety percent subconscious mind, which is a highly reliable servant of  the conscious mind and which runs a lot of automatic processes in the  body.
In order  to discipline and control the mind, we need to get to a quiet place,  close our eyes, shut out unwanted sounds, and sit quietly. Focus on your  breathing. As you do so, see the thoughts appearing one by one. Don't  do anything to the thoughts, don't become attached to them, don't follow  them to their logical conclusion. Just observe them. You will see that  they come in large numbers, one after the other. Let them come. You  focus on your breathing.
When you  sit silently, if you were to focus on all the sounds around you, you  will (to your surprise) realize that there are so many sounds which you  never notice normally, since your attention is not on them. Keep  listening to the sounds, and then slowly shift your attention to the  breathing. The sounds will become less. Again go back to the sounds.  When you do that, your breathing awareness will become less. If you  don't focus on both---sounds or breathing--the mind will start throwing  thoughts. If you focus on these, you will lose touch with the sounds and  with breathing.
What this  exercise shows us is that one needs to be extremely aware, in order to  focus the mind or control it. Mind focus is like holding a bulky torch  with oily hands. Its very slippery. You have to be very alert as you  focus this torch on the areas you want to. If you lose attention or  focus for even one minute, the torch slips out of the oily hand, and  falls into an abyss of darkness, and you are also plunged into the  darkness of the mind.
Do this  exercise daily twice or thrice. Slowly, you will improve your focus and  concentration and will be able to direct the mind to the sounds or  breathing at will, and will be able to keep away from the thousand  thoughts that the mind is throwing at you. Hold the torch of focus  alertly and tightly, or you will be plunged into darkness.

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