Talk to your mind
On why it is important to ‘let go’
The mind is the most volatile part of the human anatomy. It is more susceptible to influence than even wind and water. But it also happens to be the most powerful organ of a human being in terms of its ability to understand, discriminate, respond, invent and so on. Man has been able to dominate this planet because of his brain.
He may not be as strong as an elephant or ferocious as a tiger, but he is intellectually superior to them. Man’s intelligent creation – the world’s nuclear arsenal – can now destroy all forms of life including his own, over and over again. Thus, it is the mind again, which can be abused or misused to cause rampant destruction. And it can happen, simply because we haven’t disciplined it.
It had been a while since I had stretched myself to change what I believe strongly. Everything I had been working on – addressing human trafficking, applying the Impulse Model, leading my team and stakeholders – had become a routine. A lot of things had started happening, both professionally and personally. I had graduated from a newbie to a social entrepreneur and a Changemaker.
I was unconsciously getting sucked into the whirlpool that was slowing down my tempo and leaving me breathless. I felt like I had to get away from this busy schedule and introspect.
Around this time, Supriya Sankaran from the Ashoka Innovators For The Public India Office, called a few other Fellows and me to take feedback on what an Ashoka alumnus wanted, in his/her pursuit of being a Changemaker. The goal was to engage in an exploration of the visual, kinesthetic and collective wisdom to crystallize our insights on “shifting the social field” to address every day and big problems. Most Ashoka Fellows were facing similar challenges in their lives and work and we were too spent on planning and executing, to think about how it was taking a toll on our mind and body.
After getting our feedback, Supriya and her team designed a retreat for the Ashoka alumni of the previous decade at the Marari Beach Resort, Kochi from August 23-26, 2016, as a yearly initiative to support Ashoka Fellows who are getting burned out. While the team effort was definitely an emotional boost, it also gave us the collective comfort to empty our minds.
What I Did
I asked myself:
What would I like my future as a Changemaker to be?
What would balance me personally as well?
This is what I realized. The practice of mindfulness is like a scalpel that uncovers layers of habit, ingrained prejudice, denial, self-doubt, fear, anxiety and unwanted reactions at personal and professional spaces. It is often difficult to empty your mind of the thoughts that had accumulated for so long.
I had meditated many times before, especially when making decisions, but nothing quite like this. I had to practice very hard. For someone, always on a roll, it was difficult to let go. Because of its enormous simplicity, it was unlike any other challenge I have faced. Bringing my attention to what was happening in the present, and preventing my mind from wandering, was stressful. Thinking about people I cared for and reactions to things I don’t like, played on my mind, pretending to decrease stress, but actually worsening it. I was afraid of it. It even felt like something, weirdoes would do.
But I convinced myself that it’s never too late to begin this journey. That it is a life-skill, which would make me a better person and help me go to the next level. That once I brought these states of mind to the surface, mindfulness would become a powerful tool. Unlike the sense of accomplishment on conquering great obstacles, the rewards of sitting quietly are quite subtle. The effects began showing. I started working with complete focus, patience, energy and determination and by the time it ended, I came back with a positive mind, ready to move ahead of all challenges with more strength and courage.
Man’s miseries are often the creation of his own mind. Macbeth is a prime example. Under the evil spell of ambition, his mind behaved mysteriously. To cover up one murder, he committed some more. We may not be as devious as him, but most of us suffer due to anticipation or rather, apprehension. The more sensitive the mind, the more fragile its disposition! Our feeble reasoning power does advise us against getting carried away, but it fails most often.
A wailing mother once went to seek Buddha’s advice to cure her sorrow at her son’s death. Buddha told her to fetch some mustard seeds from a family that has not known death. She went around and found none. That is when she realized that death is after all, universal. It was her mind, which was letting the sorrow of her son’s passing destroy her.
The Bhagavad Gita says that we must remain unaffected in both happiness and misery. But the human mind easily gives way and becomes restless. Hence, it does not know what peace is. It appreciates rest and philosophizes about it, but it does not experience it. That is why it is mandatory to discipline it by letting go.
If we can let the mind off the hook and get it to concentrate on things outside itself, we’d be at a much happier place. Poets, painters, sculptors, intellectuals, etc. generally lead a more restful life, because their minds meditate over things outside themselves. This is the most difficult, but important way of disciplining the mind. Once achieved, you can pull down the shutters on the devil’s workshop and concentrate on experiencing sheer bliss through your creative work.
So, gear your mind towards a goal, work hard for it, and watch out for the result. You will be surprised how productive a simple, mindful act can be. It is what can recharge your soul and render you the focus that can make you one of the most noted people of your generation.
This post was also published on Youth Ki Awaaz, here.