Question: I have a very busy mind. It keeps wandering when I try to meditate. How can I meditate when I am not able to shut off my mind?
Sampriya: The short answer is: it is not possible or necessary to control your mind in order to meditate.
There is a persistent and pervasive myth keeping countless people from enjoying their own Meditation practice. It is the belief that one needs to empty or control the mind in order to meditate. This misconception is due to unfortunate translations and lack of understanding of the original yogic scriptures as much as to the nature of the mind itself.
The human mind is like a gigantic database that stores all the impressions, thoughts, feelings and conclusions accumulated during a lifetime. This enormous storehouse of information is in perpetual motion, incessantly churning and shifting its contents. Depending on the situation we find ourselves in, specific thoughts connected to memories and events will get activated and come to the surface every moment of every waking hour. Sometimes these thoughts are very powerful and persistent. They seem to have an energy of their own. At times they may even appear to take away our ability to remain calm or to function properly.
How can I meditate when I am not able to shut off my mind?
When we study the nature of the mind, we come to understand that it is not the thoughts themselves that constitute the problem, it is the belief that our thoughts and our identity are one and the same. Being identified with the thoughts as “my thoughts, coming from me”, we are convinced that they are real and true, just because they appear in our headspace.
In reality, thoughts are just movement in the mechanism we call the mind. Proper information and a bit of training will reveal that we are not the thoughts or the movement, but the one who is able to watch them. This Watcher or Knower being is the gift that is revealed in Meditation. It is our true “I” or identity, the Self. The Self or Knower-I is aware of the coming and going as well as the content of the thoughts - yet it is never affected by them.
In order to recognise the Knower-I in our own being, we need to close our eyes. Depending on our activities in the hours prior to sitting down to meditate, we may notice the presence of an impressive amount of thoughts fighting for our attention. This is the point where we need to apply the correct understanding of the ancient scriptures. Instead of fighting the thoughts or trying to control them, we choose to merely be aware of their existence without engaging with them.
The simple step of being aware as opposed to associating with the thoughts reveals the secret of our true identity, the Knower. It brings to light its presence that is able to perceive everything, while remaining forever free, uninvolved and never affected by the appearance or disappearance of thoughts. The Knower exists before thoughts arise, when they are present and also when the thoughts subside. If our attention is firmly established as the Knower - it doesn’t matter whether there is one thought or a thousand thoughts and there is no need for control. For the Knower, thoughts, their meaning, their presence or absence don’t have any power or influence. His natural state is unchanging Peace and Freedom.
Meditation is the practice where we recognise that we are the Knower in identify.
If you are looking for guidance in knowing yourself as the Knower, ask for a free 20-minute introduction to Private Meditation Mentoring with Sampriya