Question: When I began to do sadhana [spiritual practice] everything went smoothly at first. There was a lot of peace and happiness and jnana [true knowledge] seemed very near. But nowadays there is hardly any peace, just mental obstacles and hindrances.
Annamalai Swami: Whenever obstacles come on the path, think of them as not me’. Cultivate the attitude that the real you is beyond the reach of all troubles and obstacles. There are no obstacles for the Self. If you can remember that you always are the Self, obstacles will be of no importance.
One of the alvars [a group of Vaishnavite saints] once remarked that if one is not doing any spiritual practice one is not aware of any mind problems. He said that it is only when one starts to do meditation that one becomes aware of the different ways that the mind causes us trouble. This is very true. But one should not worry about any of the obstacles or fear them. One should merely regard them as being not me. They can only cause you trouble while you think that they are your problems.
The obstructing subtle desires may look like a large mountain which obstructs your progress. Don’t be intimidated by the size. It is not a mountain of rock, it is a mountain of camphor. If you light one corner of it with the flame of discriminative attention, it will all burn to nothing.
Stand back from the mountain of problems, refuse to acknowledge that they are yours, and they will dissolve and disappear before your eyes.
Don’t be deluded by your thoughts and subtle desires. They are always trying to trick you into believing that you are a real person, that the world is real, and that all your problems are real. Don’t fight them; just ignore them. Don’t accept delivery of all the wrong ideas that keep coming to you. Establish yourself in the conviction that you are the Self and that nothing can stick to you or affect you. Once you have that conviction you will find that you automatically ignore the habits of the mind. When the rejection of mental activities becomes continuous and automatic, you will begin to have the experience of the Self.
If you see two strangers quarreling in the distance you do not give much attention to them because you know that the dispute is none of your business. Treat the contents of your mind in the same way. Instead of filling your mind with thoughts and then organizing fights between them, pay no attention to the mind at all. Rest quietly in the feeling of “I am”, which is consciousness, and cultivate the attitude that all thoughts, all perceptions are ‘not me’. When you have learned to regard your mind as a distant stranger, you will not pay any attention to all the obstacles it keeps inventing for you.
Mental problems feed on the attention that you give them. The more you worry about them, the stronger they become. If you ignore them, they lose their power and finally vanish.