Strengthen the Mind

From the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati

The mind is a bundle of habits. Bad habits and prejudices hidden in one’s nature will necessarily be brought to the surface of the mind when the proper opportunity comes. If you change the habits, you can also change your character. You sow an act; you reap a habit. You sow a habit; you reap a character. You sow a character; you reap a destiny. Habits originate in the conscious mind, but when they become established by constant repetition, they sink down into the depths of the unconscious mind and become second nature.

Though habit is second nature, it can be changed by a new, healthy, agreeable habit of a stronger nature. You can change any habit by patient effort and perseverance. Habits such as sleeping in the daytime, late rising, loud talking, etc. can be gradually changed by developing new habits.

By a new mode of thinking, you can change your destiny. When you draw water with a rope and bucket from a well with a brick parapet, a definite groove is formed along the brick and the rope readily runs along the groove. In the same way, the mental force (the mind) runs easily or flows readily along the grooves in the brain made by continuous thinking on certain lines. By spiritual sadhana, an entirely new mind is formed with new feelings, new nerve channels, new avenues and grooves in the brain for the mind to move and walk about.

Do not be a slave to one idea. Whenever you get new, healthy ideas, the old ideas must be given up. The vast majority of people are slaves to old outgrown ideas and habits. They have not got the strength to change the old habits in the mind and the old ideas. When you hear new and striking news, you are startled. When you see a new thing, you are startled. It is natural. It is much more so with new ideas. The mind runs in ruts in its old, narrow grooves. It is directly or indirectly attached to pleasing or favourite ideas. It unnecessarily sticks to one idea like glue and never gives it up. It is a great ordeal for the mind to take up a new idea. Whenever you want to introduce a new, healthy idea in the mind and discard an old outgrown idea, the mind fights against it and rebels. Place the idea near the grooves. It will slowly take it. It may revolt furiously in the beginning, but later on by coaxing and training, it will absorb and assimilate it.

In the mind, there is an internal fight ever going on between the swabhava (nature) and will, between old worldly habits and new spiritual habits in the case of aspirants, between old samskaras and new spiritual samskaras, between good and bad desires, between discrimination and the instinctive mind and the senses. Whenever you try to change a bad habit and establish a new habit, there will ensue an internal fight between the will and the swabhava.

If you try to drive away anger and passion, they assert, “You gave us permission to stay in this body for a long time. Why do you want to drive us out now? We have helped you a lot. We have every right to remain here. We will resist all your efforts to drive us out. We shall disturb your meditation and recur again and again.” The swabhava will try its level best to get back to its old habit. Never yield. The will is bound to succeed in the end. Even if you fail a few times, it does not matter. Again apply the will. Eventually, will, pure, strong and irresistible, is bound to succeed. There is no doubt about this.

The mind is your tool only: handle it well

The mind is your tool or instrument only. You must know how to handle it. When emotions, moods and sentiments arise in the mind, separate them, study their nature and analyse them. Do not identify with them. The reality is entirely distinct from them. It is the silent sakshi or witness. Master your impulses, emotions and moods and rise from the position of a slave to a spiritual king who can rule over them with force and power. You are eternal, all-pervading atman in reality. Shake yourself from the tyranny of the mind that has oppressed you for so long, dominated you and exploited you until now.

Become an expert driver of the subtle, powerful machine-mind. Use all the mental faculties to your best advantage. The mind will become quite a good, willing servant when you know how to tackle it. Use the subconscious mind also. Pass on orders to it to work for you while you are asleep and even while you are conscious. It will sort, analyse and rearrange all the facts and figures for you in the twinkling of an eye.

The mind is very plastic if you know the secret of its manipulation. You can bend it any way you like. You can create a dislike for the things you like best now and a liking for the articles which now you dislike most. Do a thing which the mind does not want to do. Do not do a thing which the mind wants to do. This is one way of developing the will and controlling the mind.

Maintain a positive attitude

Try to acquire the power of closing yourself against detrimental or undesirable influences by developing a positive attitude of mind. By so doing, you may be receptive to all the higher impulses of the soul within and to all higher forces and influences from without. Make a suggestion to yourself: “I make myself positive to all things below and open and receptive to all higher influences, to all things above.” By adopting this attitude of mind, consciously, now and then, it soon becomes a habit. All the lower and undesirable influences from both the seen and the unseen side of life are kept out, while all the higher influences are invited and, in the degree that they are invited, they will enter.

When a doubt arises, it must be dispelled by well-directed suggestions and affirmations such as: I will succeed. There is no doubt of this. In my dictionary, in my vocabulary, there are no such words as can’t, impossible, difficult etc. Everything under the sun is possible. Nothing is difficult when you strongly make up your mind. Strong determination and firm resolution will bring success in every undertaking.

If negative thoughts enter your mind once in a month instead of thrice weekly, if you become angry once in a month instead of once weekly, that is a sign of progress, that is a sign of your increased willpower; that is a sign of growing spiritual strength. Be of good cheer. Keep a diary of spiritual progress. A mind always hopeful, confident, courageous and determined on its set purpose and keeping itself to that purpose, attracts to itself, out of the elements, things and powers favourable to that purpose.

The mind is so framed that it runs to extremes. Through sadhana or spiritual practice, it should be brought to a balanced state. The mind is one-sided by its very nature. It is through mental drill or training that integral development must be achieved.