To be thoughtful, attribute every thought first to the mind
Our mind is like a thought-factory that churns out thoughts constantly. Most of these thoughts are irrelevant and unproductive, some are dark and destructive, and a few are insightful and creative.
If we uncritically identify with our thoughts and act accordingly, we will frequently be misled. We may end up stressed, obsessed, depressed, deluded, degraded. Ironically, identifying with our thoughts can make us act thoughtlessly. To become thoughtful, we need to carefully evaluate our thoughts.
However, because thoughts arise inside us, we tend to instinctively identify with them, presuming that they are our thoughts. How can we prevent this presumption? By reminding ourselves that we are not alone inside us – our mind is there too, and it is the source of most of our thoughts. The Bhagavad-gita provides us such reminders repeatedly, as when it (06.05) urges us to elevate ourselves with our mind, and not degrade ourselves. To elevate ourselves, we need to accept the mind’s creative thoughts. To avoid degrading ourselves, we need to reject its destructive thoughts.
How can we practically do such thought-selection? By training ourselves to attribute every thought first to our mind. Whenever some thought arises inside us, we can precede it with the words, “The mind is saying …” Thus, if we feel like watching something on Youtube, we can say to ourselves, “The mind is saying: watch something on Youtube.” By such attribution, we can create a distance between that thought and us. Once the thought is held at a distance for our inspection, we can treat it as if it were a suggestion from someone else – to be neither summarily accepted nor summarily rejected but to be calmly considered on merit.
By training ourselves to attribute our thoughts first to our mind, we can rise from thoughtlessness to thoughtfulness.
Think it over:
- List three typical troublesome thoughts that you can attribute to your mind.
- At the end of each day, take stock of how you fared in such attribution.
- When you failed, note how much time you lost. When you succeeded, note how much time you saved.
06.05 One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.
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