Over the weekend I was pondering the nature of a peaceful mind, or rather a not so peaceful one, as the case may be.
Both Vedanta and Buddhism discus disturbances in the mind as having their origins in craving for things that are pleasant, and aversion to things that are not pleasant. Most of us spend a good number of our waking hours lost in stories about past situations that were pleasant (a day at the beach, fun with the family), or perhaps not so pleasant (that not so awesome exam score, a recent breakup). We also construct stories about the future, dreaming of situations we’d like to experience (a professional achievement, a new relationship), or worrying about a situation that might happen (loosing a job, becoming ill). I say ‘stories’ because, well, they are just that. They are not happening right now, therefore they are not part of the present reality. I’m not suggesting of course that we shouldn’t learn from the past, or plan for the future. The problem seems to arise when we have trouble appropriately letting go of those past and future stories, along with their associated emotions, to became aware of what is happening right now.
Yoga, when practiced with awareness in the present, can become a wonderful respite from all those circular thoughts. It can also be a well needed opportunity to practice recognising the flavour and texture of our particular set of stories, and a chance to practice turning the mind back to the present. After all, I think it’s safe to say we need LOTS of practice! The good news is that we really can get better at at least catching ourselves lost in the past or future. This practice, if approached with understanding and self compassion, can even allow us to find the endless ways the mind reintroduces those ‘old movies’ pretty funny. I often catch myself chuckling at myself, ‘really? that old line about my blog sounding stupid and people thinking I’m like waaaay too serious, again?’
Another approach to quietening those stories in the mind and introducing a little more peace, is with mantra yoga. Mantra yoga is a whole art and science unto itself, so for the purpose of today’s topic, I’ll keep it really simple. Chanting mantras (sacred sounds) can be very effective in bring the mind to quietness, stillness, peace. They work best with repetition and complete focus on the sounds of the words. Here is one example that you might like to try out. This is a sanskrit mantra, one of the śāntiḥ (pronounced shaantihi, meaning peace) mantras from the Upanishads (some of the oldest Indian texts).
ॐ स॒ह ना॑ववतु । स॒ह नौ॑ भुनक्तु । स॒ह वी॒र्यं॑ करवावहै । ते॒ज॒स्वि ना॒वधी॑तमस्तु॒ मा वि॑द्विषा॒वहै॑ ॥ ॐ शान्ति॒ः शान्ति॒ः शान्ति॑ः ॥ om saha nāvavatu saha nau bhunaktu saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai tejasvināvadhītamastu mā vidviṣāvahai oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ Om! May we be protected together; may we be nourished together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and our studies illuminate us; May there be no dislike between us. Om! Let there be Peace in me! Let there be Peace in my environment! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me! References Clive Sheridan (assorted talks at assorted workshops) Tam James (assorted classes & post class breakfasts) Taittiriya Upanishad, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda, Published by Advaita Ashram, Kolkata (via Wikipedia)