If you're like the majority of the population, the New Year probably arrived with great fanfare and plans for the future. This year would be the one you resolved - you'd shed the pounds, you'd be more productive at work, you'd spend more time with the family, you'd be a better version of yourself. Cut to a week or so later. The dust has settled, most of it on those new trainers that are still lying untouched in the cupboard.
So, there you are, sitting in 2016, with the old habits of years past still firmly by your side.
Around four-and-a-half years ago, I found myself grappling with the same dilemma. Why couldn't I shake off old patterns that were no longer serving me well? In my search for the answer to this question, among others, I stumbled across heartfulness meditation and gradually and progressively experienced the answers to the following two questions:
1. Why are we not able to keep up our resolutions, or anything that we know is good for us, or which we want to do?
2. How to keep up our resolutions, or do what we know is good for us or what we really want to do?
Let me attempt to answer these questions below.
Why do we get in our own way?
If I have to answer the first question in one word, it would be "thought". Once we become a little more aware of how our mind functions, we will realise that all our actions (and thus their consequences) are preceded by thoughts.
Our mind functions like a wild horse and seems to have a will that gallops beyond our conscious control.
Usually, our mind functions like a wild horse and seems to have a will that gallops beyond our conscious control. This way, we are controlled by our mind; we do not control the mind. We do not use the mind to do what we want to do; we do what our mind wants us to do.
Let me give you an example - In the morning, when I know I want to get up to do that much-needed exercise I promised to myself in the beginning of the year, my mind will think of different things which could take me away from doing the needful! Five more minutes in bed, today is very cold, I slept late and I deserve proper sleep, my legs are hurting... you name it. Now the mind has years-long habit of wandering like this -- it's natural for the mind to create different thoughts. The real trick is what do we do with our thoughts?
Generally, we do either of the following:
(a) Either we get carried away with them and do as they dictate. In the example above, keep ourselves in the bed and avoid exercising that morning while promising to ourselves that we will definitely do it tomorrow! The story repeats ad infinitum.
(b) Fight with the thoughts or try to suppress them, generally finding that this makes the thoughts stronger and even if we are able to get up one day for exercise, the next day our thoughts attack us with greater vigour to which we end up succumbing!
This brings us to the answer to the second question - how do we deal with thoughts in so that we are able to do what we really want to do?
Breaking the cycle
The simple answer to the question of how we can prevent our mind from defeating us is "regulate your thoughts and take control of your life!" But this immediately brings us to the next question - how do we regulate our thoughts?
I have created a new habit for my mind to ignore unwanted thoughts and stay focused on what I really want to do, which helps me in implementing it.
The answer that has worked for me and many others that I know is heartful meditation. So, how does it work? Here's what I do: I start meditation by slowly taking the attention to the heart area in my body and giving a suggestion to myself that "there is divine light present in my heart." While I gently try to stay with this thought for as long as I can, a flurry of other thoughts do come. At this point, I neither fight them nor do I engage with them, I simply ignore them or stay unmindful of them. I let them come and go like clouds or as the uninvited guests whom I simply ignore. I tune them out. If I still get carried away with them, I gently bring back the attention to my heart and continue meditating.
Until not so long ago, my mind was in the habit of wandering about like a wild horse. But now, I have created a new habit for my mind to ignore unwanted thoughts and stay focused on what I really want to do, which helps me in implementing it. This could be about being focused at work and ignoring thoughts about checking Facebook or anything else.
Gradually, with regular meditation, I have experienced the baits of my mind changing. It is still a work in progress, but the results so far have been good enough for me to want to continue practicing it. That is why I have specified that I have experienced the answers to these questions and not found them. Much has been written about the phenomenon of the mind and thoughts, but it's of little use to us until we experience it ourselves. If you too want to experience what I have experienced, you could start by visiting www.heartfulness.org.
Incidentally, starting blogging for Huffington Post was my new-year resolution for 2016 which I just implemented! I hope you'll be able to accomplish your goals too!
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