Controlling Five Kinds of Thoughts

Each category of thought may be controlled in a different way for successful meditation. Emotion causes us to think about the recent past. Better to be content in the present than worry about the future. The subconscious creates the future; remold it through affirmation. Free up the mind from major decisions. Breathing and thinking are inter-related; quiet the mind through pranayama.

Unedited Transcript:

[Bodhinatha has returned from a trip to Texas and shares with the devotees some of the common questions he receives from his audience.]

Question and answer session: "How can I control my thoughts?" was what he asked. Which is a variation on the more common statement.

"When I sit to meditate I can't control my thoughts. What should I do?"

That's the more common way the point is made. It just relates to meditation. You're trying to successfully meditate and your thoughts are going all over the place. The answer I gave him is is my standard answer. It depends on what type of thought it is. In other words, there's different techniques for controlling different kinds of thoughts. You don't need the same technique for all thoughts. And, for this approach, thoughts are divided into five categories. Each one is controlled in a different way.

The first category is the recent past. What type of issues do we think about a lot from the recent past? Well, things that didn't go well. Perhaps an argument with a spouse, disagreement with a boss, disappointment that something you were working on really wasn't successful. And all of these things happened within the last few months.

It seems, on first thought, that it's unfortunate that our mind is thinking about them a lot. Cause clearly it's taking us away from sitting and meditating successfully. Our mind is reminding us of these events. But, that's not the best way to look at it. A better way to look at it is the mind is pretty intelligent. It's telling you that this event isn't resolved. You need to do something; you need to apologize to someone. You need to sit down and re-discuss the matter. If it's a failure in a project, you need to find another way of looking at it.

I don't know the name of the scientist but he said: Failure in an experiment is finding out one more thing that doesn't work. You know, it's like the glass is half full instead of half empty. He looked at it: Well okay that didn't work so we can check that off. Keep going and find out everything that doesn't work, finally you'll find something that does.

So, the subconscious is reminding us that it's not resolved and after a while it'll give up. So it'll say: Okay. I've done my part and it'll suppresses it. And you won't think about it anymore. But, it's still there. It's tucked away in the corner. It's like sticking something in the attic or in the basement or in the garage and calling it good, you know. You haven't really put it where it should be. You just, it's out of sight out of mind kind of approach. It's better to put it where it should be; maybe it should be thrown away. Maybe it should be digitized and then thrown away. That's a good way to keep things from piling up is you pile them up on your hard-drive.

So anyway, the recent past bothers us and should be resolved in the ways we've talked about.

Distant past: If we think about something again from the distant past on a regular basis it means we haven't understood it or we haven't accepted it. And Gurudeva, of course, gives us the technique of writing it down and burning it up. It's in, modern terms it's called journalling. And it actually works. It's not that we forget the memory; the emotion comes out of it. And the emotion is what is causing us to think about it. And it becomes just something that happened in our life. It's an event. Being an event it's emotionally neutral and therefore we don't think about it.

So those are two simple ways of clearing thoughts about the past.

General worries about the future: You're worried about losing your job, you're worried about the world running out of oil, whatever the worry is. May come in many forms. Mothers worry about their children a lot. And, the most common worry out there is: My daughter's thirty-eight and she's not married yet. This is a new worry. Kids are getting married so late. You know, it really distresses the parents particularly the mother. So, that's a question I get. The daughter's sitting right there of course and the mother's right there. And the mother starts complaining that the daughter's thirty-eight and hasn't gotten married yet. And the daughter's pursuing some career in a university or, doing just fine.

That, worries can be replaced by affirmations. "I'm all right just now" is a very popular affirmation that Gurudeva recommended. Is kind of an all-purpose affirmation that he discovered when he was quite young. That there's no point to worry about the future; it may not happen. It's better to be content in the present than be worried about some possible future. Affirmations are very effective and we have a separate book on that. Power of affirmation is such a popular topic we have it separated out from the Master Course Trilogy as a separate book. It's to encourage people to study the techniques because affirmations need to be done in a certain way for them really to work.

Affirmations are taking advantage of the fact that, as Gurudeva teaches: The subconscious creates the future. The impressions we put in our subconscious mind are creating the future. And in general life is a bit filled with ups and downs and so the impressions we put in our mind are somewhat haphazard. And therefore, we're creating a haphazard future if we don't do something else. So, the something else is putting in positive statements about the future we want to experience. And that remolds the subconscious as Gurudeva says.

One of his sutras he talks about -- it reads something like: My devotees are successful in every undertaking by writing down the past and burning it up which purifies the subconscious. And then remolding it through affirmations. So, two step process. First we want to... it's like as I mentioned, going out in the garage or up in the attic or down to the basement. And cleaning it up, straightening it up; throwing things away you don't want. And then we re-program it through affirmations.

The fourth category is major decisions. And most of you remember my thought on major decisions. Major decision is -- we have three job opportunities, an example. They're all good. And we're constantly thinking about. But, it's a major decision and we don't have enough time to think it through. So, we think about it for five minutes and then we stop. We think about it for seven minutes over here and we stop. Why? Because it'll take about an hour to think it through. And we don't have an hour but we still think about it anyway because it's important. Just kind of eats at our mind.

So, the suggestion I have is: You make an appointment. If the decision requires an hour you make an appointment with yourself when you actually have an hour. And you say: Okay Saturday morning from 10 to 11 I have an hour free. I'm going to sit down and write out the pros and cons of each of these three options and come to a decision. And if I think about it between now and then I'll tell mind I have an appointment. Go away! You're wasting my thought. And, it works very well. It's surprising how many major decisions can be handled in that way and free up the mind from thinking about them unnecessarily. Particularly, if we're trying to sit and meditate. We don't need major decisions coming in to be handled.

That is the past and the future. What's left? Of course, the present.

Usually the present is minor thoughts. What's for breakfast? Sitting there meditating. What TV show are we going to watch tonight? It's these small things that can kind of creep in. What am I going to do when I get to work?

And the technique for that is regulating our breathing. Gurudeva's basic -- called pranayama. Gurudeva's basic pranayama is: Breathing in for nine counts, holding one count; breathing out for nine counts, holding one count. This regulates the breath initially and if it's practiced for a few minutes the breath will tend to slow down also. A regulated and slower breath quiets the mind. Cause the two things are inter-related, breathing and thinking. The faster we breathe the more likely we are to think. The slower we breathe the less likely we are to think. It quiets the mind down in a very natural way. That's why it's done at the beginning of a meditation.

And, otherwise, if a simple thought comes in and you're meditating about the present day... If a thought comes in you just say: Well I'll think about that when my meditation's over. There's no reason to think about it now, I'll just move it forward till then.

So, dividing up the mind in that way -- our thoughts into these five categories -- has been found to be very effective. Otherwise, it's just too undefined. You don't know how to approach it. I try and meditate but I can't control my thoughts. Well, you don't know what kind of thought it is if someone says that. Because, depends totally on what it is how it can be controlled.

So, thank you very much.

Have wonderful day.