Don’t let the stray lead you astray
Suppose we are walking, and someone approaches and asks us to come with them somewhere. We wouldn’t just go along nonchalantly – we would first evaluate whether the detour would be worthwhile.
While that is common sense, that sense is not so common when we deal with our inner world. From within sometimes stray thoughts emerge and invite us on detours. These propositions are made so subtly and swiftly that we often fall under their spell. And we end up wasting our time in craving for trivial things or lamenting about unchangeable things or worrying about improbable things. Actually, time wastage may well be the least of the detour’s costs. During some detours, we may be misled into actions that are karmically incriminating, emotionally entangling or spiritually degrading.
Such misleading thoughts frequently emerge from the mind, which, the Bhagavad-gita (06.35) declares, is restless – akin to a stray wanderer. We can’t eliminate the mind’s wanderlust immediately, but we can train ourselves to resist it. The best resistance strategy is purposefulness.
Returning to the starting example, we wouldn’t let anyone sidetrack us if we were going on an important assignment. Similarly, if we keep ourselves purposefully engaged in important things, and if while doing those things we remind ourselves of their importance, we won’t let stray thoughts lead us astray.
We can best cultivate purposefulness by practicing spiritual meditation that connects us with our deepest values and highest purposes. Such meditation fosters inner alertness. If by that alertness we can put off the mind’s idea for even a few minutes, that idea’s spell will wear off, and we will regain the perspective to evaluate it objectively. Then we can go along with it on the few occasions when it is serendipitous, and continue on our way on most other occasions when it is gratuitous.
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