Mindfulness

By Rudra Shivananda

The mind in yoga is called manas and is our first level for experiencing the world through the senses. Manas is the sensory computer operating on the inputs from sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The ancients considered the mind to be a defining attribute for human beings – the first human is called Manu and humankind is called manava or the descendents of Manu.

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In the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna has said that the mind can be one’s best friend or one’s worst enemy. If one has no control over one’s own mind, then there can be no worst enemy who will defeat every positive effort. However, if one has control over one’s mind, then it becomes a powerful ally to achieve one’s goals. Therefore, control of the
mind is essential to one’s well-being as well as to the achievement of spiritual goals.

People suffer from stress and tension caused by worry and anxiety which in turn are caused by an overactive and uncontrolled mind. People suffer from unhappiness due to fears and desires which are caused by an uncontrolled mind. If a person can control his mind, then he will be free from suffering.

There are many methods of controlling the mind – in fact all meditation techniques are either focused on mind control or require a degree of control over mind. Since the mind is distracted by external phenomena, the first stage would be to withdraw from external stimuli – which is why most meditation is done with the eyes closed and with mental
attention drawn inward, focused on either a mental image, the breath or a part
of the body.

The next stage to mind control is to develop concentration – this is where most of the effort is directed, as themind tends to wander and is not focused on one point. Many years of effort may be needed in order to train the mind to be one-pointed. It is a tiring and difficult practice, but once achieved will open up a whole new world of experiencing
that was previously denied due to all the noise of dispersion.

The third stage is achieved when concentration becomes effortless – this occurs when the mind and the object of meditation comes closer together and when there is an interchange of between object and subject and the subject partakes of some part of the object and gains insight into it. This is properly called the stage of meditation.

When the meditation deepens further, the mind and the object become so absorbed that they become one – this is the unity consciousness. Through these stages, the mind  becomes controlled. However, along the way, many distractions occur. Even when the mind is withdrawn from the external world in stage one, the mind becomes distracted by sub-conscious thoughts and memories and tend to pull the subject from the object, which is the reason for the difficulty in achieving a high degree of concentration. Perseverance
is necessary.

Mindfulness is a state of awareness that is possible when one has achieved a high degree of concentration – it is practiced with the eyes open and the person interacting with the world. It would be very frustrating to try to practice this without first developing control of the mind. It is mindfulness which destroys all ego-centric behavior and lead to a harmonious and divine life free from sub-conscious compulsions.

 

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