Developing a healthy relationship with our mind (Managing the mind series 4)
We don’t usually realize how much our mind controls us. Nonetheless, we do get some glimpses of its grip on us whenever we try to discipline ourselves. Suppose we resolve to give up a particularly troublesome habit. But we find ourselves not only failing in our resolution but also indulging in that habit even more. Such experiences may force us to acknowledge that our mind may have enslaved us.
Alarmed at being dominated by our mind, we may seek to not just control it but crush it. However, our mind also contains the impressions that shape our innate interests. These interests comprise our psychophysical nature, which determines the life-areas where we can best contribute. And the Bhagavad-gita (03.33) emphatically asserts that no one, not even the knowledgeable, can repress their nature. This means that we can’t make our mind a slave to our will.
Between the extremes of being enslaved by the mind and enslaving it is the middle way: befriending it on mutually acceptable terms. The mind has potentially ruinous impressions associated with lust, anger and greed — we need to firmly regulate and gradually eliminate them.
Won’t the mind oppose such discipline? Yes, it will. That’s why we need determination. Simultaneously, we can sweeten the deal by accepting those interests of the mind that correspond with our psychophysical nature. When we provide adequate opportunities for channeling and cultivating those interests, the mind doesn’t feel choked. As it gets to do what it likes and gets to learn how to do them better, it starts realizing that our terms of discipline are reasonable. And it becomes our friend.
Don’t be a slave of your mind, but don’t expect it to be your slave either; learn to befriend it on mutually acceptable terms.
Think it over:
- Have you ever realized how much your mind controls you? Reflect on your attempts at self-discipline to gain or deepen that realization.
- Why can’t we make our mind our slave?
- How can we befriend our mind on mutually acceptable terms?
03.33: Even a man of knowledge acts according to his own nature, for everyone follows the nature he has acquired from the three modes. What can repression accomplish?
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