by Rudra Shivananda
Most spiritual practitioners soon discover that when they sit for meditation, their minds can go into overdrive and all sorts of thoughts – some ‘good’ and some ‘bad’ – make their appearance to disturb any sense of peace or tranquility. Even seasoned practitioners find themselves being distracted by negative thoughts after years of calm and peaceful mental states…some may even wonder what happened to their years of effort to purify their minds.
The truth is that thoughts are inherent in the human condition. Remember that Descartes concluded after wrestling with his perception of reality that “I think, therefore I am”. Thousands of years before, the sages of India called their fellow beings “manav or children of manu” – the origin of these two words is “manas” which means mind. Human consciousness is mind-borne, but it is only a limited expression of universal consciousness. It is this mind and the thoughts that arise from it that define humanity as well as limit us from realizing our True Self, which the sages discovered is beyond the body and the mind.
Only when a person is Self-Realized can that person be free from thoughts – free from the meddlesome mind by realizing his super-conscious state of awareness.
In the meantime, there are two remedies for dealing distracting thoughts:
- Replace them with some affirmation or mantra (sounds of power given by the ancient sages) – this works because the mind can only hold one thought at a time. If you focus on a positive vibration generated by a mantra, you’ll change and purify the mind at the same time. Therefore a mantra is superior to repeating just a phrase or affirmation which cannot generate the energy field that leads to a state beyond the mind.
- Since the problem with our thoughts is not that we have them but that we identify and are attached to them, the best solution is to “let go” and detach from these thoughts as they arise in the mind. One can sit and observe the thoughts without reacting to them. Of course, this is counter our human condition and is not as easy as I describe. However, any attempt to detach from our thoughts helps to purify the mind and inoculates us against the emotional ups and downs brought by them.
Most spiritual students tend to over-worry about their thoughts – when the thoughts are ‘good’, they feel good and when the thoughts are ‘bad’, they feel discouraged. I’ve put ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in quotes because these are relative terms in the human condition. This emotional rollercoaster is more damaging than the thoughts themselves, which have no power to harm us…try out the two solutions given and pick one that suits your best.