The Restless Mind

People involved in spiritual practices like yoga, meditation, chanting of sutras, and mantras know that focus and concentration is key; it is where the secret lies if at all one is to derive maximum benefit from such practices. Yet most people involved in these practices can attest to the fact that focus and concentration are the most elusive aspects once one is set to begin any one of these practices.

Statistics tell us that the average human holds between 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day, most of which are negative and a significant portion of the rest are repetitive as the day before. The sad part is that we have allowed ourselves to be overrun by our thoughts which then physically manifest through our activities, speech, and behavioral patterns. You can understand why the average human is a ball of stress and anxiety.

There is a classical Zen story of a man on a horse which is galloping wildly down the road. To adjacent onlookers it seems like the man has somewhere important to go, somehow late for an important appointment. A curios onlooker suddenly shouts above the crowd to the man

“Where are you going?”

To which the man on the horse replies,

I don’t know ask the Horse?

The moral and relevance of this story cannot be emphasized enough. The horse in this narrative symbolizes the restless mind, which is ever wild, swinging from one corner to another, and totally out of control. The man on the horse signifies the typical human being at the mercy of his restless thoughts and emotions which leads to indulgence in mindless activities. The mind (signified by the horse) is tagging the man along causing him to run here and there without him actually knowing why. Isn’t this a clear depiction of how we usually are? Running here and there without paying attention on why? If you stopped and questioned yourself every now and again why you are ever harried and in a hurry you will not have an answer, but even if you do, I am sure it will not be a very good answer.

In the Baghavad Gita 6:34 this concept of the restless mind is clearly explained. It states that the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, and that to subdue it is more difficult than controlling the wind. It continues to say that even though the mind is supposed to be subservient to the intelligence; it is so strong that sometimes it overcomes the intelligence.

Since our thoughts are essential for belief formation, planning, explicit learning, moral reasoning, and many other capacities that make our lives experiences easier and take us closer to our goals, it is important that we learn the art of becoming masters of our minds and thought processes. At the end of it all we should train our thoughts to be pointed towards the direction we desire to go instead of the other way round. This is not easy but it can be done. One effective way of achieving this is by being mindful and present in all that we do. Mastery of your thoughts and thought process, means mastery of your life in general. It means you are in total control of your destiny instead of helpless surrender at the mercy of fate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *