The mind makes the uncomfortable seem unbearable and then makes us do the unconscionable
Suppose someone lives in a place with uncomfortably hot weather. If they accept their situation, they will gradually get used to it. But suppose they decide that the heat is unbearable and seek a water cooler by hook or crook. Though normally law-abiding, they try to rob a bank, get caught and are imprisoned.
Such behavior would be crazy, but our mind can impel us to do something similar when we face discomfort. Suppose we feel uncomfortable because of overwork. While discomfort is unpleasant, it isn’t unbearable. However, our mind obsesses over the discomfort. The more we think about a difficult situation, the bigger the difficulty seems to get and the more unlivable the situation seems. Desperately wanting relief, we may end up doing something unconscionable, something that we would normally never do — such as indulging in some destructive pleasure. Indeed, many people who end up addicted initially just wanted some relief from life’s discomforts.
How can we respond to discomfort constructively, not destructively?
First, by remembering that the mind’s feelings are often misleading. Providing such a reminder, the Bhagavad-gita states that the mind can be our worst enemy (06.06).
Second, by redirecting our thoughts toward something healthily comforting during phases of discomfort. We need to find something that lies in the intersection of the things that we feel good doing and the things that are good for us. Then we can hold on to that thing as our anchor whenever the waves of life’s discomforts start hitting us.
To act as anchors, bhakti wisdom provides us many manifestations of the divine such as holy names, wisdom-texts and deities. If we can anchor our consciousness on some such manifestation, we can not only tolerate discomfort but also become purified, thereby decreasing our vulnerability to being misled by the mind.
Think it over:
- How does the mind make us respond destructively to discomfort?
- How can we respond constructively to discomfort?
- List three anchors that you can hold on to during phases of discomfort.
06.06 For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.
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