Managing the Mind

From Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Volume I

I am disturbed by so many distractions. How can I get rid of them?

Distractions are natural for everybody. Even if you live in seclusion at the top of the mountains, you will have distractions. If you close yourself off in a soundproof chamber, you will still have distractions. Distractions are born of desires, ignorance and unawareness of the spirit. When you are not following the inner path side by side with external life, you will have more distractions, whether you are living in the country or in a busy city. On the yogic path you can learn to live to the fullest without being affected by distractions.

How are we influenced by living in ordinary society? Does the constant suggestion we are subjected to from advertising, newspapers, etc. affect our minds?

Everybody is under hypnosis. Constant influence is being exerted on all individuals and it is totally structuring their minds. The whole lifestyle is a hypnotic process. Delusion hypnotizes you and you are continually exposed to newspapers, advertisements, television, radio, books and magazines which keep you under hypnosis.

How are you going to de-hypnotize yourself? If you manage it, you will be disillusioned about the whole scheme of society. We live within a family pattern, a man and woman live together and call themselves husband and wife. That’s hypnotism. If you were to de-hypnotize yourself, the family would break up. In fact, man lives under constant hypnotism right from the time of his birth up to the point of his death. Perhaps only a few people are not under that hypnotic state.

Once I tried to de-hypnotize myself, and I found that I had no faith in anything. I was full of doubt and I couldn’t be sure of the honesty and sincerity of anyone. Therefore, it is easier for most people to remain hypnotized. But as you grow in spiritual life, you automatically become de-hypnotized.

Where does restlessness come from and how can it be overcome?

Generally, restlessness is due to excessive thinking and desiring, and it indicates that the mind is not under your control. In this physical body there are two forms of energy. One is known as mental energy and the other is vital or pranic energy. When you are feeling restless, it means your mental energy is high and your pranic energy is low. There is an imbalance; your sense organs are very active and your motor organs are less active. In hatha yoga language, we call this an imbalance between ida and pingala nadis, or in modern scientific terms, an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

In order to harmonize the excess mental energy it is necessary for one to practise more raja yoga concentration. The best method is repetition of a mantra. The mantra can be repeated mentally, either with or without the use of a mala. It can also be practised in synchronization with the breath. Of course there are many other ways of practising the mantra, but these are the best methods for checking the outflow of mental energy.

If you are not able to do this, then there is another way of approaching the problem. You should try to increase the level of prana in the body. Either you check the quantum of mental energy or you increase the quantum of pranic energy. The purpose of hatha yoga, raja yoga, or in fact any form of yoga is to create this harmonious situation.

At the same time, on another level, there are certain hormonal secretions in the physical body which contribute to restlessness. The most disturbing hormones are adrenaline and testosterone. If you can efficiently control the outflow of these hormones, you can overcome the primary physiological factors leading to restlessness.

By regularly practising asanas, pranayama and meditation, hormonal production is controlled, the mental and pranic energies are harmonized and problems such as restlessness do not occur.

How can I have a free mind?

It is very difficult to have a free mind, and more than that, it is very dangerous. If a tiger is not kept caged, it might run free and kill many people. Before you think about making the mind free, it must be educated, trained and disciplined, otherwise it might bring destruction to you and to others.

The mind is very powerful. It is the basis of good and evil and it can manifest anxiety or balance. The same mind wants to commit suicide at one instant and to realize God the next. This means there are two stages of mind – the untamed mind and the trained mind. A yogi has a trained mind, but an animal doesn’t. Now, in man there is an animal, a man and a god. Once a man has trained his thoughts and emotions, his actions are controlled, and then he can think of making his mind free.

If you do not discipline yourself before making the mind free, it will make you unhappy and depressed. It will create hatred, likes and dislikes, attachments and repulsions, and it could influence you towards self-destruction. Nowadays we are all suffering because our minds are undisciplined. So when we talk about freedom of mind, we should not forget about discipline. Discipline of mind and freedom of mind should go together; they are not independent of each other.