An article by Mihai Stoian.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”
What happens with all our mental capacity?
Did you ever experience to try to focus on something and another thought to come over and over into your mind disturbing your concentration? Have you ever had a situation where you heard a melody (even for only a few seconds) and then for hours or even days that melody is singing in your head “by itself”? Did you ever try to remember something and you couldn’t and after you drop it the memory came to you vividly? Have you noticed that in some circumstances you are able to concentrate for hours in an exemplary way (like when you’re reading something very interesting and you don’t even hear people calling you very loudly) and other times for other activities (that you are not much interested for) you need a huge effort for results that aren’t even close?
All the aspects that we have described above are happening under the direct control of the mind. But analyzing these situations one might think that that mind is not controlled by the one that owns it. It seems like the mind has its own life, out of our will power and control. It seems that we have a huge mental capacity on one hand and on the other hand that we don’t really control that potential. Then the questions here are: if not us, then who is controlling our mind? And more, what happens with our mind when we don’t use it?
The answer to the first question is that nobody and everybody controls it at the same time. From a certain point of view, our mind is like a very advanced computer that has a lot of pre-installed programs and routines, and is running them under the impulses that are coming from the “outside world”. In the “outside world” we include everything that is from outside of the mind. This also includes perceptions that come from inside, like feelings, emotions, inner perceptions of all kind, and thoughts, which are usually mixed with what is coming from outside. For this reason the mind reacts to many stimuli that are coming to it in an automatic way, which is out of our conscious control. When we get angry for example, we become conscious of that only when we are already deeply in the state. But the state is the result of some settings that the mind has beforehand, in the subconscious area in relation to certain perceptions that we react to.
The state that we become aware of is the final result of a lot of combinations and “superimpositions”, and was created without us being aware at all. We are “served” only with the conclusion, without being given the choice. The state is already there, and we were not participating in its formation. And in fact we are not even aware that we could have a choice. We think that if we get angry that’s a fact that does not leave us any choice. “It comes from outside and I can’t help it,” we usually say. In our sleep-walking existence, the choice is almost inexistent because in order to have a choice the first condition is to wake up.
In the ancient tradition of wisdom, the uncontrolled mind was compared with a monkey. One who has a monkey-mind is acting like a monkey is controlling him/her in many situations.
Fig.1 - Monkey Mind
The answer to the second question is even simpler. When we don’t use our own potential then we are used by it, we become automatic machines that are reacting according to predefined schemes. Of the unitary flow of universal energy - information that comes to our mind we use only a very small part, the rest becoming just “noise”, unconscious activity that is using most of the power that is given to us without us being in control. When we are “intensively” thinking about a certain object for example, hundreds and in some cases thousands of “parallel” processes are taking place in our mind at the same time. What looks like a “dense” and continuous process of thinking is in reality as full of holes as a fishing net. The flow of mental energy is divided between many “parasite” processes that our main conscious activity has to share the energy with. As a result the conscious mental processes are often almost “suffocated” by the intensive activity of the subconscious mind. The process of focusing the mind is in fact gathering the forces in the same direction as the one we consciously choose. In this way the power of mental concentration is very much increased and the “density” of our attention focused toward the object of our concentration is much better.
Fig. 2 Divergent thinking process
Fig 3. Focus (convergent) thinking process
The hypnotic monkey
In order to better understand the importance of the mind and of the understanding of its functioning, there is a classic example in the ancient texts that gives the dimension of the power of the mind in creating our reality. Imagine that you enter a half dark room and on the floor is a rope. You see the rope and get scared thinking that it is a snake on the floor. Your body can react violently and you might even have a heart attack. But in reality the snake didn’t exist, even though it scared you. Where was the snake? The snake was in your mind. If we think deeply about this example, we can see that the mind has the power to create the reality that we dwell in, considering it to be perfectly “objective”, and being so convinced about its “objectivity” that we can even react strongly to it. One can say that the example is a rare situation, but we can find such examples in every moment of our existence because the same mechanism that make us superimpose the image of the snake on the image of the rope make us superimpose the desires we have over an objective reasoning, and in this way influence the result.
Upon closer inspection we can see that most of our experiences are subject to the same mechanism, and we don’t usually have any way to check. The dangerous part of this situation is that the process itself is not controlled by us and therefore we can be the “victim” of our monkey mind at any time. And if somebody knows how to use this in a skilful way we can be even “killed” by the snake that exist only in our mind and that was “suggested” to us by a skillfully placed rope on the floor. In fact many of the situations that take place nowadays with us are the proportional combination between the objective experience and mental projection, and the problem is that we never know what is what. A common mistake when we try to understand this situation is to judge only the perceptions that arise from the activity of the senses. But there are a lot of other experiences that are more “subtle” and that are not the result of the activity of the senses, but we can perceive them inside of our being: for example feelings. But the perception of aspects like feelings is often far from being accurate.
Often we try to find the answer to questions like: “Do I love this person?” and in a strange way the answer seems to be very difficult give. If we don’t think at all we might have a clear answer based on the mysterious “intuition”, but if we try to think a little bit we will not be able to give a clear answer, and the more we think, the more the answer is unclear. This phenomenon happens because we are confronted with the same superimposition of mental patterns over some objective perceptions of the emotions.
Usually we try to escape this kind of situation by choosing to live at the surface of things, never trying to get into the depth for the very simple reason that we might get lost into all kinds of ghost-like impressions, into the labyrinth of our own emotions. On the other hand, if the mind will not interfere we will know for sure what we love, what we like, what we don’t love, what we don’t like, what is beautiful, what is ugly, what is right and what is wrong. All these answers are instantaneously known in our being and it only takes an accurate capacity of perception (without the interference of the “monkey mind”) to know them at first sight.
The “monkey” in the mind that is “playing” with the tuning button is almost always imposing mental activity over objective perceptions and experiences (from the outside - coming through the senses - and from inside - coming directly through the mind).
Fig. 4 The superimposition process.
Get back what is yours by Divine right
The mental potential is ours by Divine right and the fact that we do not use it fully is just a choice that we have made. As we have shown before, the mental processes are out of our control firstly because we don’t think that is possible, because we don’t know otherwise. For this reason we have to start to study the functioning of our own mind and to gradually take conscious control of its functioning.
In our consumer society is very hard to make this step, especially when it looks to be against the general current that tells us “let go!” Some are saying here that the problem for them is that they are too much in control, that they have to relax and let go. This is usually a mistake because the condition of these people who feel tensed and obsessed about control is just that they are controlled by these tendencies that they cannot stop. In such cases, tensions of all kind are mistaken for control. A person full of tensions is not “too much in control” but is just dominated (controlled) by tensions!
When talking about the control of the mind we are talking about the capacity to have choices in whatever aspect of our states or inner experiences. A good control over the mental processes means that if we choose to be happy in a moment or a situation when we usually are sad, than we will be happy. If we want to create art and we need inspiration than we tune at will with the mental vibrations that are characteristic to the state of artistic inspiration and we can create like a genius. The control over the mind doesn’t have anything to do with the effort.
Of course the questions at this stage are many, but the best answer that we can recommend is meditation! By understanding meditation you will gain a very practical understanding of the intimate functioning of the mind.
Rediscovering the wheel
One of the oldest definitions of meditation is found in the famous yoga treatise, the “Yoga Sutras” of the great sage Patanjali. Thousands of years ago Patanjali gave one of the most simple and clear definitions for meditation: “when the mind flows through the attention toward the object of meditation in an uninterrupted flow, the meditation is attained”.
Other definitions of meditation – to be read with an intuitive openness.
Meditation is a Lotus flower arising from still waters.
Meditation is the action of going towards the middle, towards the Supreme Center of the (human) being.
To meditate means to travel inside the own inner world to the Inner Source Gate (Portal), and if the soul is sufficiently purified, to merge with it in a final impulse.
Meditation is the royal path that leads to perfection, to spiritual Liberation. It eliminates any suffering, sadness and blockage. Meditation confers the vision of Union and the direct perception of Uniqueness.
Meditation is the path to divinity. It is the mysterious ladder form Earth to Heaven, from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from pain to joy, from worry to peace, from ignorance to knowledge, from death to eternal life. Meditation leads us towards knowing the Self, eternal peace and supreme happiness (joy).
To better understand these definitions we first should take a look at the concept of concentration and what “mind” actually means.
Concentration can be defined as “to control (to stop) the mind”.
The nature of the mind is like the nature of the wind. In the old traditions it was stated that the nature of the mind is motion. When the air is still the wind doesn’t exist and the air is invisible. But when the air is moving the effects are visible and we call that “wind”. In the same way, the mind is invisible if completely still but when in motion we can see the effects of this motion (the thoughts) and this is what we call “mind”. In this way we erroneously identify the mind with its movement. But in reality the mental substance that remains after the mental phenomena are stopped is the “conscious principle” that has its manifestation in motion as mind.
Once the thoughts are stopped, the mind “disappears” and there is the non-mind state, a state characterized by the highest degree of spiritual creativity and intuition. This is the state of meditation!
When concentration is maintained for a long enough time, then meditation appears in a natural way, as day follows after night. Meditation is not a practice in itself unless we have the level to enter the state of meditation. Meditation is a result of the practice, when the practice is successful, it is a state. The usual misunderstanding about meditation is to mistake it for the concentration. Concentration is the voluntary orientation of the attention toward a certain object (interior or exterior) with the purpose of keeping the mind fixed upon it.
Not everybody who stays with eyes closed and in a special meditation posture is meditating. Only if the conditions inside are fulfilled does meditation appear. Until then we can say that we practice mental concentration.
When we have attained the meditative state, this becomes gradually the background of our existence. To make this clearer we have to underline here that in the process of obtaining the state of meditation, we are not “building” some extra abilities. Our inner nature is a meditative state, but due to successive superimpositions we cover it with all kind of mind games. The mental concentration that makes the mind able to remain under control, focused only on the targets that are given by us and in rest silenced, is practically removing all the obstacles that obscure the meditative state in our being, bringing it to the light of the consciousness. Therefore, meditation is not an extra “layer” on top of our personality; it is the basis of it brought to light. For this reason, once obtained it easily becomes the background of all our experiences, thus all the experiences in our life transform enormously.
Searching for carrots and discovering diamonds.
The work of the mind is amazingly complex, but the reality that we perceive consciously is far simpler than the whole picture that we have in the subconscious. Most of the activity that we are performing is done behind the stage and we are not part of it.
The work of our entire structure is based on the phenomenon of resonance. If we take the example of a radio, the station that we listen to there is the one that we have tuned to. By rotating the tuning knob we are able to change the station that we listen to at will. In the same way the human being is an analogical radio that can tune by resonance to different energies – vibrations. The tuning knob for us is attention. The things that catch our attention are in fact the aspects that we immediately tune into. Usually this process is automatic and the “monkey-mind” is playing with it according to whatever comes. For this reason the control of the attention is essential in the practice of concentration.
By the constant practice of mental concentration, we are regaining control of the tuning knob and in this way we are able to control all our states that are nothing else but different resonances. By doing this we are able effortlessly to “rephrase” our destiny, to take our life in our own hands. This is one of the big rewards that we get by practicing mental concentration. In the beginning we try to obtain control over some states, but then we realize that by modifying the predominant states that we have in the everyday life we in fact modify our destiny.
In the focus of the mind lays the secret of all the powers.
Meditation is the sign that we have succeeded in the mental concentration, it is the treasure that we discover while searching for power.
With a focused mind, all the resonance phenomena can be maintained for a very long time, producing effects that are far from the usual states of daily life. The so called paranormal powers for example are nothing else but expressions of the ability to keep the mind under control and to focus it on specific resonances for much more than a normal person, thus generating the exceptional energies that are responsible for the “paranormal” phenomena.
The difference between a normal and somehow “flat” state and a very vivid and intensive state is the intensity and continuity of our concentration upon that state. If we want to have a very intensive state of happiness all we have to do is to focus continuously upon that state (we can evoke a state of happiness that we have experienced in the past) for enough time, and the state that appears will be more or less intensive in proportion with the time of our uninterrupted concentration. What is important to note here is that it is possible to control the intensity of all the phenomena that happen with us by controlling the mind and where it’s focusing.
In this way the power that we usually have as human beings and that we manifest in our daily existence is not relying on the outside circumstances but very much on the degree of mental focus.
The balance between love and knowledge is a successful meditation.
The mind needs discipline and the heart needs freedom. Usually we are in the opposite situation: our mind runs freely around without control but our heart is locked away, closed to any contact with reality. To change this status we have to train the mind and bring it under control by means of practice of concentration and to learn to let the heart express freely without the mind interfering. The best way to strengthen the heart is LOVE.
It is said in the spiritual traditions that meditation appears spontaneously in the mirror of a mind that reflects a heart full of LOVE.
The practice of concentration has to be built on a strong feeling that we love what we are doing. If the exercises are done in a flat and boring way, without “putting heart” into them, the results will not come easy.
The daily practice of mental concentration is a very important help.
The positive habit of practicing concentration and to aim for meditation every day is an amazingly efficient tool in order to create the necessary calmness and detachment for a harmonious life in the middle of modern society.
Swami Shivananda praised meditation: “The overall sum of the pleasures of this world is nothing compared to the happiness resulting from concentration and meditation. Do not give up this practice at all. Go on with your practice; be patient, persevering, happy, tenacious and trustful. This way you will succeed.”
Even if you only practice a little in one day, the constant practice is a very important aspect of the mental training, firstly because the nature of the mind is to change, and this constancy in practice is helping to regain control over the mind.
Simple techniques to practice mental concentration and attain meditation.
A Simple Exercise of Mental Concentration
Sit in a comfortable position (on a chair for example), keeping the back and shoulders straight, with the head up so the spinal column is vertical. It is recommended to face the Magnetic North Pole if possible. Choose a simple object that will become the “support” for your mental concentration. Place the object in front of you so that you can observe it easily. Close your eyes and prepare to follow these steps:
• Relax rapidly and profoundly, from the feet upwards. The relaxation takes every part of the body in a gradual process.
• Observe your respiration and deepen the relaxation until it becomes calm and quiet.
• Focus your attention inwards, withdrawing the senses from any exterior stimuli that might distract you. Start by isolating the mind from any thought that may appear. Observe “from outside” any thought that might appear and observe how the thought observed long enough dissolves into the mental background.
• Focus the mind upon the chosen object.
• Empty your mind from all thoughts, then bring the chosen object into the field of attention, without allowing the mind to jump to another object or thought. If this happens, bring it back with calmness and patience.
• Maintain the attention on the object chosen for concentration. It is advisable not to force it or to be tense. Be calm, quiet and focused.
You will realize that in fact mental concentration is a static process: during concentration, the mind is blocked, thinking ceases and mental activity is suspended. The only mental activity that is permitted is to bring the mind back to the object of the concentration when it loses its focus.
• Focus attentively on the object of concentration: approach it with amazement and the curiosity of a child, as if you did not know a thing about it. This approach should not be rational or intellectual, but rather you should get to the essence through feeling and intuition.
• Explore the object in a state of creative silence, without any goal, only waiting for impressions. Then only you and the object will exist:
• Get into a state of continuous euphoric expectation, accompanied with a high degree of perception. Allow your being to be absorbed in and by the object. Do not try to define, to form opinions or to understand, only be permeable to that object, looking at it as if it were for the first time. This will open you towards the object itself and will create the state of mental receptivity in which intuition (or the supra-consciousness) is able to function. By following this process, you will soon notice that surrounding objects have many meanings and messages that you usually miss. Everything becomes pure wonder, a fascinating mystery that you will gradually unravel completely. You will discover that everything is sustained by an invisible energy and that you can get to feel and control this in time.
If you notice that this exercise fails lamentably in the beginning, accept this fact as normal. Remember that in Yoga there is no useless effort. In other words every effort will be fruitful, as the wise men say, “the mud is as valuable as the lotus flower it feeds”.
“Silence is golden,” says a folkloric proverb.
The practice of SILENCE for a long time (hours and maybe days) is extraordinary for the effortless control of the mind. It allows us to observe the mind’s processes and to gradually become aware of them.
Silence can be at different levels. It can be only physical, or it can be deeper, going all the way to non-thinking. These are the extremes we can define our daily life by.
We can say that the power of the mind is given by its silence. A person that knows how to be silent is a person with a powerful mind. Silence leads to a state of luminosity inside and acuity in perceptions. For the spiritual path, silence is a very good discipline and goes very efficiently together with any other practice.
But the best way to understand the amazing power of Silence is to try it as an exercise. We recommend choosing one day a week in which you practice Silence for the whole day. It is a radical change
Fig 5. The practice of SILENCE for some.
Meditation – Effects
The beneficial effects which result from the constant practice of meditation are due to the resonance with the subtle energies of the Universal Mind.
Ancient texts together with the modern studies indicate certain effects that are specific to meditation, no matter the form of training that is performed.
The specific effects of the meditation can be synthesized as follow:
• Makes the amplification and inner directing of mental and psychological processes possible.
• Gradually eliminates nervousness, shallowness, and lack of concentration, anxiety, depression, prejudice, psychosomatic diseases, and inferiority complexes.
• Eliminates stress and simultaneously offers a state of calmness and harmony, both inside and outside us, which is reflected in improved relationships and communication.
• Removes doubt, suspicion, psychological troubles, lack of spiritual energy, physical exhaustion.
• Harmoniously activates the creative imagination.
• Rapidly and profoundly regenerates the personality.
• Establishes self-knowledge of the innate potential of each individual.
• Makes one aware of the depth of consciousness, sub-consciousness and supra-consciousness.
• Accelerates spiritual evolution.
• Increases the capacity to control emotions and thoughts.
• Strengthens the mind and by revealing its potential, leads to growing self-confidence.
• Improves rapidly the memory and intuition.
• Opens the gate of supra-consciousness; that of intuitive knowledge and countless paranormal powers.
• Creates changes not only in mental and emotional states but also in sensory perceptions: the individual becomes more open to ambience, more conscious of nature's beauties and colors, of others' happiness and sadness. He feels the texture of life as the gardener feels the petals of a bud opening.
• Leads to a decrease of the metabolic coefficient, diminishing oxygen consumption and carbonic gas production.
• Lessens the percentage of lactose in the blood which is determined by anxiety and stress; meditation does this almost 4 times faster than if the subject was resting calmly.
• Increases skin resistance up to 400%. Interior agitation, anxiety and stress control the level of skin resistance to electricity.
• Tends to slow down heart rhythm.
• Dramatically increases the number of slow alpha waves (8-9 per second).
Psychologists who have used meditation in treating patients under clinical conditions demonstrate that for certain individuals, meditation reduces stress, anxieties, stress associated psycho-pathologies (insomnia, stammering, high blood pressure) and self-blaming. They also predict that meditation is useful for decreasing drug dependence, increasing self identity perception, improving mood, facilitating the expression of emotions, and increasing activity and energy in general. Furthermore, meditation results in a calmer mind and a decrease of the impact of suffering.
Physiologically, Dr. Lawrence Le Shan states: "Meditation essentially produces a physiological state of deep relaxation, along with a state of hyper-awareness. The metabolic coefficient decreases, as well as cardiac and respiratory rhythm. The model of physiological responses of meditation differs from sleep or hypnosis. The physiological state produced by meditation appears to be opposite to that produced by rage or fear. From a technical point of view, we can say that meditation determinates a hyper metabolic state, completely different from the "alarmed defense" state, corresponding to the reaction of "fight or flight". "
Drawings by Hans Hvass