Check the Wandering Habit of the Mind
The mind in the vast majority of persons has been allowed to run wild and follow its own sweet will and desire. It is ever-changing and wandering. It jumps from one object to another. It is fickle. It wants variety. Monotony brings disgust. It is like a spoiled child who is given to much indulgence by its parents or a badly trained animal. The minds of many of us are like menageries of wild animals, each pursuing the bent of its own nature and going its own way. Restraint of the mind is a thing unknown to the vast majority of persons.
This wandering habit of the mind manifests itself in various ways. You will have to be alert always to check this wandering habit of the mind. A householders mind wanders to movies, theaters, family, etc. The wandering habit of the mind must be controlled by rendering it chaste and constant by Self Inquiry. The mind must be trained to stick to one place for five years during your meditative life, to one method of Spiritual practice, to one path of Yoga – either Karma, Bhakti or Devotion – to one spiritual objective and to one guide. “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” When you take up a book for study, you must finish it before you take up another. When you take up any work, you must devote your whole-hearted attention to the work on hand and finish it before you take up another work. “One thing at a time and that done well is a very good rule as many can tell.” This is Yogi’s way of doing. This is a very good rule for success in life.
Do not have a goat’s mind. A goat grazes for a few seconds in one patch of green grass and then immediately jumps to a far distant patch, even though there is plenty of grass to eat in the first patch. Even so, a wavering mind jumps from one Practice to another Practice, from one Guru to another Guru, from Bhakti Yoga to Raja Yoga, from place to place. This is extremely deleterious for the Practice. Stick to one Guru, one place, one form of Yoga, one kind of Practice. Be steady and firm. Then only, you will succeed. Have a steady, resolute mind.
Discipline the mind. Tell the mind, “O Mind! Be steady. Be fixed on one idea. Absolute is the only Reality.” If it wanders, if it wavers, go to a lonely place, give two or three sharp slaps on your face. Then the mind will become steady. Self-punishment helps a lot in checking the wandering mind. Frighten the mind as if you will beat it with a whip or rod, whenever it wanders from the Goal, whenever it entertains evil thoughts.
Mind tempts and deceives you through object. Distance lends enchantment to the view. Until you attain the object, it will seem to you as a pleasurable object from a distance. When you actually get it, it becomes a source of vexation and pain. Desire is mixed with pain. Objects are so delusive that they often deceive even the wise in this way. He is a really wise man who can detect the illusive nature of these objects.
Mind always tempts you to have various sightseeing. It is all vain trick of the mind to divert you from the goal. Use your Viveka (power of discrimination) always. Address the mind thus: “O foolish mind, have you not seen before, various places and scenery? What is there in sightseeing? Rest in Soul within. It is self-contained. You can see everything there. It is all-full. (It contains all forms; it is Beauty of beauties). What are you going to see outside? Is it not the same sky, the same earth, the same passions, the same eating, the same gossiping, the same sleeping, the same urinals, the same cemeteries everywhere?
In the beginning, I used to give a long rope to my mind. It will whisper to me, “Let me go to party tonight.” I would say, “My dear friend, my mind! You can go now.” As soon as I return, I would ask, “O mind, are you satisfied now? What did you enjoy there?” It would hide itself and drop down its head in utter shame. Gradually, it left off its old habits and became my true friend, guide and Guru through true counsels it imparts in the way of obtaining the highest goal.
Do not allow the mind to wander here and there like the strolling street dog. Keep it under your control always. Then alone you can be happy. It must be ever ready to obey you, to carry out your behests. If the mind says to you, “Go eastward,” then go westward. If the mind says to you, “Go southward,” then march northward. If the mind says to you, “Take a hot cup of coffee in winter,” then take a cup of icy cold water. Swim like fish against the mental current. You will control the mind quite easily.
Order the mind to do a thing which it does not relish and it will revolt. Coax and it will obey. If the mind is deprived of its pleasure-centers of all sense-objects, it clings to Vairagya (Dispassion) and Giving up and must naturally move towards Self. Renounce everything mentally and destroy the mind through the attainment of Self-Knowledge. Rest in the self-existent seat of Soul. It is only through dauntless energy that the painless wealth of Liberation can be acquired!
Mind – Its Mysteries and Control by Sri Swami Sivananda