These are the words of the Himalayan master Swami Rama, which pass through my mind every morning and evening as I sit down to meditate. Every meditation for me must start with this ‘sankalpa,’ a commitment to remember my determination – I am more powerful than the patterns of my mind.
The world we create and live in is the result of our habits, our mental tendencies and our deep-rooted patterns. Yet, many of us may actually be sleepwalking through life, operating on autopilot and reacting to the events of life as they occur. We get caught in endless cycles of worry, anxiety, fear, resentment and preoccupation.
On the surface it may appear that life is fine as it is, we are simply in the human experience. Yet the Sages and Rishis (seers) promise a life that far surpasses this. The ancient texts speak of a state so sublime that words cannot describe it. The methodology to reach this state is outlined in texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Something I read this week stuck out for me as it relates to the practice of meditation. “Practice is our master, being in service to this master is our duty. We have to have a pleasure in this duty and a sense of gratitude.” This is a tall order for most of us, for when we actually get down to it and begin the process of attempting to make our mind one-pointed and inwardly focused, we soon come to realize that the mind is wild and unruly, constantly pulling us this way and that.
I am reminded of my work every summer as a young teenager. I used to train wild, unbroken horses so they would be ready for the next season of sheep and cattle herding. This was a step-by-step process that took time and required patience as each horse responded differently. If you tried to rush any part of the process you ran the risk of making a horse ‘hard mouthed’ or prone to bucking and kicking, or worse still, you could crush their spirit. I had to be loving, present and encouraging every step of the way. When a high-spirited horse fought me I had to lovingly back off a step or two. Then, I’d slowly reattempt the part of the process they were reacting to, until they were ready to accept it, whether it was a saddle on their back, a bridle, or weight on their body. If I became impatient or angry their behavior would reflect that and their resistance would escalate.
Horses are incredible creatures, so willing, so giving, if treated correctly. I find the same is true of the mind. We cannot force it to become one-pointed. We cannot try to block out thoughts or to simply ‘not think.’ We have to pick our internal focus and patiently, consistently attend to it. We learn to observe the mind and to let go of disturbing or interfering thoughts. Through this process of introspection we can start to witness some of the governing patterns of thought that are coloring the way we perceive life.
The yogic texts point us toward an underlying self-luminous guiding intelligence and remind us that the mind is there as a servant to our soul. When we work with the mind consciously through the process of meditation, we are able slowly free ourselves of the endless loops of worry, anxiety, fear and dullness. We are able to perceive life clearly from the perspective of this luminous inner intelligence.
There is something satisfying about sitting in the saddle of a newly trained horse and feeling their eager responsiveness to your command. When we firmly take hold of the reins of our mind, it offers a similar satisfaction. We are all so much more powerful and aligned when our mind is working for us, not against us.
I have been practicing now for 10 years I can say that it is the single most powerful thing that I do. It has taken time and patience. Think of your body like a trash can you have slowly been filling with memories, thoughts, and beliefs your whole life. Just like it took time to fill the can, it also takes time to empty it. Start today to create a positive and healthy relationship with your mind. Recognize that you can choose your thoughts. Remember the words of Swami Rama “ I can do this, I will do this, I must do this.”