The Dungeon Prompt Sreejit gave us for this week was to “take some time and think about the one thing that you’ve learned which you would most like to pass on to future generations.” I gave myself several days to simply be with the instructions, knowing that the answer would “come” if I allowed myself to be quiet. And come it did! While I am far from having learned this lesson, I have come a long way down the path, and know I will go a lot further before I pass from this world. The lesson that is most important for me to learn and pass on is to quiet my over-active mind.
I have always been an introvert, and probably always will be. In addition, I lived in the era of “Children are to be seen and not heard.” In our home, the most common form of punishment was to be sent to our room. I spent a lot of time in my room. Did a lot of pouting there in fact.
I think my patterns of over-thinking have their roots in those early years. By the time I was in my thirties, I spent so much time immersed in my thoughts. When I was with a group of friends, or in a class, I analyzed everything I wanted to contribute to the conversation. By the time I had the perfect words figured out, the conversation would have moved past the point where speaking the words would have purpose. When I did manage to get them out, I would then spend an inordinate amount of time afterwards reviewing what I had said. Had I said what I wanted to say correctly? Had I made a fool out of myself?
That problem was probably at its height at the time I started my personal therapy process in the mid-eighties. I remember feeling like my mind was a computer that was about to explode. At one point, my therapist told me if I didn’t stop, I was going to end up in the hospital. He told me to pay complete attention to every moment. For example, when I was going to eat to say in my mind, “I am picking up my fork, I am putting the food on my fork, I am lifting the fork to my mouth, I am putting my fork down, I am chewing my food, I am swallowing my food, etc.” When I followed his instructions, my mind slowed down.
I met Amma in 1989. My mind was often very quiet when I sat near her, and I entered meditational realms that held so much deep peace and bliss. It was as if a door had opened for me and I could see what was possible. When I was away from her though, I would go back to many of my old thought patterns.
At that time in my life, I felt a strong desire to live in an ashram (monastery), even though I knew that it was not the appropriate time for me to do that. Whenever I thought about living in an ashram, I would feel so much grief that I couldn’t stop crying. Sometime in the early 90’s, I took this problem to Amma. Her immediate response was “Stop Thinking!” I now realize in those two simple words, she had given me a direction that could change my whole life.
Simple to say, but not simple to do. I have come a long way in that endeavor, but if I am in my “stuff,” over-thinking is still likely to be the cause of it. I make myself so miserable in that way.
I know that a silent mind is where intuition, insight, and inspiration reside. I also know that the road to a silent mind is by doing the spiritual practices I have been taught, such as japa (mantra repetition), chanting spiritual texts such as the Sri Lalita Sahasranama, singing bhajans (devotional singing), and mindfulness. Processes such as meditation and yoga also help.
So what is preventing me from doing those practices consistently, what is my resistance? I have no doubt that the resistance is fueled to my over-doing. As long as I fill my life with doing things that do not support my goal of having a quiet mind, I will not have it.
While I still am over-doing, I am much more likely to say no to things that I don’t want to do. I have a harder time saying no to activities that give me pleasure. However, some of those activities, such as studying Sanskrit and writing for my blog, are part of the path to a quiet mind. I am most successful in those undertakings when I do them in a way that is meditative.
Like most big changes, learning to quiet the mind takes time. I have the opportunity to make choices between doing and being many times each day. As I experience the benefits that come with a still mind, I am more likely to make choices that will promote it. I am progressing on the path, and that is what is important.
quieting the mind
bliss flows in
deep warmth for my soul