Resources of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition

Training the Mind

We must try to understand this problem. It's the habits we have formed with our mind. If those are the thoughts that you think all the time, what is the poor mind going to do? From your very childhood you have said to your mind, "Okay mind. You are free; think what you want to think. See what you want to see. Cultivate whatever emotions, negative or positive, that you feel like cultivating." Now if you have a dog, and you never train that dog, and suddenly when the dog is eight years old, can you train that dog? If I ever own a dog, I'm going to give that dog a name. I'm going to call that dog, Mind. And I'll train my dog well, so that when I say," Mind, sit," Mind sits; "Mind, stay," Mind stays. That's my dog that I have to train. Do you get the point? So meditation is training the dog you own called the mind, giving it a new direction. Where you have been tense, learning to relax; where you have been negative, learning to be positive. And in this way the mind gradually changes; but it takes time.
People say, "You mean I have to meditate every day?" "Yes, of course." "How long do I have to meditate every day?" And then I ask the question: How long do you have to brush your teeth every day, so that one day they are really clean, and you don't have to brush them anymore? How long do I have to keep taking my laundry to the laundromat every week? How long do I have to keep sleeping eight hours a night, every night - one-third of my life - sleeping? How long do I have to keep eating three meals a day so that one day I can say, "I am full"? How long do I have to wash my face every morning or take a daily shower? The dirt accumulates. You are in the world. Similarly, sitting down to do your practice of meditation is like brushing your teeth, taking a shower or washing your face or taking your clothes to the laundry - taking your mind to feel clean, calm, quieter, purer. And then you are again ready to go out into the world and say to the dust of the world, "Come on, my skull is empty; enter anything that wants to enter." So it takes time for us to change the habits of the mind, to change the habits of the kinds of reactions we have to our surroundings, to our relationships, to what others throw at us.

How we respond is our choice. And I want to go into that a little bit more. So we are training the mind to change certain habits, to know what I have within me and how I can use it for positive ends, how I can train my mind to sit when I want it to sit, to stay when I want it to stay. I'll give you an example of the kind of choices you have. At the present moment most people think that they are the slaves of their environment and whatever emotional reaction they are having to any situation that is being presented to them, well, that is the normal, natural response of any human being. "After all, I am a human being." What I am saying here is that a human being is a free being. You have the freedom of choice in the matter of your feelings and your emotions. And you are not that helpless.

I tell my students wherever I go that a person can choose to be in any mood at any time. Here at home when you are quarreling with a family member and the phone rings and it's your boss, you are all smiles. You have changed your mood. We do it all the time. Just take it to the logical conclusions. It's within your power to do so. You are somewhere, and you are alone, far away. The fact that you are alone and far away is an objective fact; it's a neutral fact. It's neither a good one or a bad one. It's neither a pleasant one nor a painful one. It just is an objective fact. That place is there somewhere; you are alone, and you are far away from friends, family, and all that. Now you can sit there - you are alone - and now you have a choice of two emotions: One is that you can suffer loneliness. The other is that you can enjoy solitude. That choice is a conscious choice, and that choice is yours.

I find that a large number of people walk into a situation and - any new situation, even the situation they wanted, the kind of job they wanted, the kind of marriage they wanted - they walk into that situation, and the minute they walk into that situation, they say, "Let's see, what is here to suffer?" And from that moment, they suffer that. Now, I walk into a situation and I say, "Now what is here to enjoy?" Why should I suffer the things that there are there to suffer? Why shouldn't I enjoy the things that are there to enjoy? So I enjoy them. But you see, that again requires training. You can sit down morning, afternoon or evening - whenever you have time - and go into these meditation exercises slowly. And for that time say, "Okay, all of these thoughts and emotions and disturbances and problems, you all stand over there at the door. No it's my time. All the visitors that visit my skull, you stay there. This is my time to be at peace with myself, within myself."

Slowly, very, very slowly, gradually, the mind will learn to obey you. Because greater than your conscious mind, greater than your emotional subconscious mind, is something else, and that is conscious volition. And we have not yet learned to use that faculty in our lives. We have learned to wish a lot, but we have not learned to will the things we want. So, while I am going to go into breathing techniques and meditation and relaxation and the problems in trying to practice meditation, I want to talk about how you can apply that experience into your daily life. And if, on the very first day of sitting down to meditate, you don't have a very quiet, a very still, ecstatic, mystical experience, my friends, don't have such high expectations right at the start. Take that moment. Look at that moment as it is. Experience that moment. Don't rush ahead of yourself. Just experience that one moment wherever you are.

My spiritual master, Swami Rama, used to visit Minneapolis much more frequently ten years ago than he does now. And I had a student, a professor at the university, who would come to him and say, "Swamiji, I have started meditating, but nothing is happening in my meditation." So he said, "Well, what did you want to happen?" "Well, I don't know." "Well, find out what you wanted to happen in your meditation and tell me about it." That's not a fair answer, you know.

The man was persistent, and two months later Swami Rama again came to town, and the man appeared there, and said, "I'm not making progress in meditation; nothing is happening; nothing is developing." "Carry on. Keep it up." Six months later this gentleman again comes to Swami Rama and says, "Swami, I really want to make progress in meditation, and it's not happening." So Swami Rama said, "Do you meditate?" "Yes, I do," the man answered. "Do you meditate every day?" "Yes, I meditate every day; I never miss." "How long have you been meditating?" He said, "About six months." "When you sit to meditate, do you sit still?" "Yes, I sit still." "How long did you say you've been meditating?" "About six months." "How long do you sit?" "About twenty-five minutes to a half an hour." "Twenty-five minutes to a half an hour, you do sit still?" "Yes, I do." "Professor so-and-so, if six months ago somebody had walked into your office an said to you, 'Professor such-and-such, would you please sit down on that chair of yours and sit absolutely still for the next twenty-five minutes,' could you have done it?" "No, no, I don't think that I would have been able to." "But now you are saying that you sit still for twenty-five to thirty minutes, every day. How can you say that nothing is happening in your meditation? A lot is happening in your meditation. You can actually sit still."

Slowly, gradually, you will learn to still yourself, and from that you will share the peace with the world. And when we sit down to meditate, one thing we learn to do is to forget our ego. When you sit down to meditate, you are not tall; you are not short; you are not male; you are not female; you are not young; you are not old; you are not lean or fat, handsome or ugly. You are, there, a being which is the Life-force itself, Consciousness itself.

Even in the relaxation lying down which we experienced today, some of you will have found that there comes a moment when you are hardly aware of the body. In deep relaxation there comes a time when you are hardly aware of the body, let alone your name or your size or your position or your successes or your failures. You come in touch with a part of you which is much deeper than the body itself. You are not aware of the body, but you are not unconscious. You are aware. And then the question arises: what are you aware of? And we say, "That is the first step towards learning about that Self which is beyond ego. The ego is a conditioning, an imposition. But there is a Self, a Life-force, a force called Consciousness which is beyond ego.