Friday, February 28, 2014

Spring-cleaning the mind

Everyone spring-cleans once or twice a year, usually just before a festive season like Diwali or Christmas. You get rid of a lot of old and unused stuff, even stuff you didn’t know you had. Bags and clothes, books and compact discs, kitchen items and furniture pieces, you give them all away, mostly to charity, to people who can’t afford them and would actually use them. After cleaning up your house, you feel a sense of satisfaction, even relief, as if a load has been lifted off your shoulder. In fact, you feel so good about it that you look for more stuff to dispose off.

If a task as mundane as housecleaning can make us feel pleased with ourselves, think of how much we will benefit from de-cluttering our mind and our life in that order. Unlike our material possessions, we can’t put all our thoughts, particularly negative thoughts, into a basket and throw them away. Most will refuse to budge and the ones that do will soon be replaced by other more unpleasant thoughts.

Challenging as it seems, the solution is actually quite simple: weed out unconstructive thoughts as soon as they come and they come in the first place because you invited them. Throwing out stuff from your closet or attic is at best a half a day’s job; emptying your mind of undesirable thoughts can take much longer, perhaps even a lifetime. This is because you have conditioned your mind to receive and nurture more negative than positive thoughts almost throughout your life.

It sounds almost impossible but it can be done. Every time an unhelpful thought rears its head, don’t try and brush it aside; instead, push it away firmly and permanently. Initially it will be reluctant to go, finding ingenious ways to enter the portals of your mind and digging its heels in like before. With perseverance and practice you can bit by bit, inch by inch, take control of your mind, guarding it like a gatekeeper and deciding which thought to allow in and which one not to. This will require tremendous effort backed by an iron will and spiritual discipline.

You can start the transformation of your thought process this very moment—by becoming aware of your mind and thinking one good thought, say, for every five bad thoughts and taking it from there. Change won’t happen overnight but it will eventually and when it does, your mind will be the first to let you know.