Many times I have seen in this forum(and others) people ask questions on how to control their thoughts, deal with their emotions or deal with their mind. This questions haunts beginners on the path as well as advanced seekers. I don’t claim to be self-realized. But, I have gained some experience in these issues. So, I thought it might be a good idea to sum up stuff I have learnt so it might benefit others.

First things first – can the mind or thoughts be controlled?

The answer is NO.

So, did I catch your attention with a click-baity title and will I live you high and dry? Nope.

The mind, which is nothing but a bundle of thoughts cannot be controlled, but it can be REGULATED. If you try to control the mind, you will regret the consequences.

It gives me enormous pain that a lot of spiritual masters don’t give their students some basic instructions on how to deal with this stuff and go on to give mantras, meditations, techniques and all kinds of methods claiming that theirs is the miracle pill that will deliver the masses to Samadhi or heaven just because whatever they technique they adopted worked for them. Well, let me emphatically say here, self-realization is an individual journey. People can help or guide you, but you will have to walk on your behalf and deal with your mind until you transcend it(unless you are a real Bhakta/Devotee who has completely surrendered their mind, life and all problems at the feet of their Guru or God – in that case you have no need to read further).

I will give some pointers below that I have collected over the years from different sources that will help you deal with things in your internal world.

  1. Observe: When you close your eyes and look inside, you fill see many ideas, thoughts, images, videos (fantasies) and sound recordings (thoughts of others). First step, is to relax your body and mind, gently close your eyes and look at what is going on inside this inner television or computer.
  2. Acceptance : Our society since the time we are born has told has what is good, bad, acceptable or unacceptable. When we close our lives and listen or see thoughts in our mind, we react to them the same way if they were to appear in front of us in the external world in real life. Some thoughts which we were told were “bad” we try to fight or push away or suppress. Some thoughts we were told are “good”, we love and want to re-live them and so on. But, the laws of the internal world are different from the laws of the external world. In your mind, whatever thought comes in front of you, just learn to accept it. You don’t have to agree with or believe whatever thought comes in front of you. But, accept that this thought or image or fantasy is playing in your head. If you fight with it or resist it, you will add enormous pressure on your brain and you will be the loser. If you suppress a thought or a desire, it will definitely rise it head sometime and you will have do deal with it later. So, observe and accept the desire.
  3. Let go or Fulfil Desires: A desire is a thought that comes along with a feeling, and calls for action or fulfilment in the external world. The stronger the desire, the stronger the emotion or need to fulfil it. You have only two choices with desires – letting go of those you deem can’t be fulfilled or not useful, and fulfilling those that you think are important and can be done.
  4. Strengthen helpful thoughts: Some thoughts are helpful in your journey. Some are useless or detrimental. If you keep repeating the helpful ones, you are “strengthening” them and your subconscious will actually start to believe them. This activity is like watering the seeds – given sufficient time and right environment, they will sprout and become a plant and then a tree. Per contra, if you ignore or let go the ones you don’t like, they will whither away like plants that are not watered. Attention is the water to the seeds of thoughts in your mind. All your habits are thoughts or seeds that have grown into trees because you watered them albeit unconsciously.

5. Forgiving others and oneself: I learnt to forgive myself and other for a very selfish reason – maintaining inner peace. The more I forgive my actions and others’ the more at peace my mind is.  Not everything has to come out of some profound and unselfish motive. It can be selfish too 🙂 Actually, much of what is termed “spirituality” by famed Indian Gurus can be termed “Psychology”. Until you reach the Spirit or soul, you will have to deal with calming the waves of your mind.

6. Lessen expectation: The lesser the expectation from yourself and others the lesser disappointments you will have to deal with. People advocate having no expectations, but I think there is a subtle expectation from everyone – including Gurus. This is a slow and painful process where you will have to “tune” your dependency on the external world so that your internal world is steady and stable most of the time.

7. Dialog: Learn to have gentle and nice dialogues with your mind. Sports psychologist term this “self-talk”. My self talk was brutal at the beginning. I was super harsh to myself because of various outside influences – teachers, parents etc. Mind is like a child – so treat it nicely, but don’t indulge it – it shouldn’t bully you. 

8. Truth:  Being truthful within yourself is important to keep your inner world neat and tidy. In the real world, you can lie when need be. But, take a mental note that you did so without condemning or regretting or adding guilt to yourself. Whether it was needed, justifiable or not – don’t allow anyone to judge or say. It’s your life, so it’s your call. But just stay truthful to yourself so that you know what is going on inside your head.

9. Action Items: Some times you get a thought or a feeling when you sit for meditation that reminds you of what is pending or needs to be done. Just tell those thoughts waiting for your consultation that you will get it done sometime later.

Emotions:

Watch your emotions arising from the left side of your chest(heart region). They will rise and go over like a wave in the ocean if you let it sufficient time to pass. If it is overwhelming, talk it out with a trusted friend, or counselor,  or talk to your pet about it. Take a walk in nature – nature is the best healer. I have walked in a sour mood, and it got completely changed after an hour of hike. 

Most importantly, you will realize, your emotions, feelings and thoughts are NOT YOU. They come to you, who is the witness or silent observer behind all this internal and external phenomena. Dive deep into that silence – that is the real YOU. Not all the crap the world told who you are not the identities and roles you play when you are awake. Please do not believe all the thoughts the mind thoughts the mind throws at you. Many of them are cognitive distortions at the root of anxiety. Top ten common cognitive distortions are listed below:

https://arfamiliesfirst.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Cognitive-Distortions.pdf

Keep in mind thought the above advice is not suitable for people dealing with serious hallucinations or persecutory thoughts. You might need some medication and/or spiritual guidance. This stuff is for regular folks who want to know what to do with the drunken wild elephant running inside their brain 🙂

Let me emphasize here, dealing with your mind is a gradual journey for most of us as we have not been trained for it. So please be very gentle, loving and kind to yourself in this journey. It will take a lot of love, time, effort and patience. But, it is worth it. Definitely worth it.

Good luck, my friend. Good luck.

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