Discipline Thinking about the Future
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2012-11-30
Worry, thinking about unnecessary negative patterns, excessive talk: Wastes energy, over-stimulates intellect and desire. Discipline, quiet the mind. Make an appointment with yourself to think through major decisions. We can be more content by strengthening our power to be observant about our thoughts, rising above, seeing and addressing the patterns. [commentary on Self and Samadhi, How to Realize God. ]
We're reading from How to Realize God, from "Self and Samadhi" our newest book:
"We must live in the now to follow the path to enlightenment. In the lower realms of the mind, where time and space seem very real, we are worried about the past or concerned about the future. These two intermingle and limit conscious awareness. Living in the past or the future obstructs us in this way: the past by reliving old experiences -- mainly the negative ones, for they are vividly remembered -- clouds our vision of the future. Living in the future over-activates the intellect, the emotion and the desires. The future is little more than another form of mental fantasy. Past and future are equally unreal and a hindrance to spiritual unfoldment. A person functioning in the now is in control of his own mind. He is naturally happier, more successful. He is performing every task with his fullest attention, and the regards are to be seen equally in the quality of his work and the radiance of his face. He cannot be bored with anything he does, however simple or mundane. Everything is interesting, challenging, fulfilling. A person living fully in the now is a content person. "
This reminds me a bit of Gurudeva's statement: "Observation is cultivated by avoiding excess talk." Sometimes sincere students of Gurudeva's teachings take that to the extreme, they feel they shouldn't be talking at all. So, the same here in terms of thinking about the future. I've presented this kind of teaching in a number of situations and generally, at least one person will ask: Well does that mean we shouldn't think about the future at all? Which is the equivalent of not talking at all. No, of course it doesn't mean that. It means we should not think about the future unnecessarily. For example, lets say one of our duties is to clean the floor. We either sweep it or we vacuum it. If we've cleaned it once are we going to clean it again? No! You know, we're not going to clean the floor unnecessarily; we're not going to clean it two, three or four times. But that's what we do about the future. We think something through and then we think it through again. And then we think it though again. And then we start to change our mind about what we thought about it the first time. And it's like cleaning the floor extra times but we don't see it so objectively.
As is generated by worry, for example. We're worried about the future. Sea level is rising. We're running out of oil. Singapore is going to shrink. We'll all have to move to Malaysia. You know, we can worry about these things, unnecessarily. So Gurudeva's pointing out we're wasting our energy and we're causing extra activity which over-stimulates the intellect and therefore over-stimulates desire. We want to think about past and future in a more disciplined way as we would do the housework. We only want to do a task once; we don't want to be constantly rethinking and then thinking again and going over the same point multiple times.
One of the exercises I created is the one of making an appointment with yourself, which is very effective. Cause it quiets the mind. The idea is if you have a major decision to make: you're trying to choose between two job offers, for example. You're trying to choose between buying two new homes, you're not sure which one. Some major decision. Not a minor one. It's natural to constantly be thinking about it cause it's a major decision. It's important. So you're thinking about it. But it's such a major decision it requires two or three hours to think it through. There's so many aspects to it; we have to compare it; we have to think it through systematically. But, we don't have two or three hours so we think about it for five minutes and we drop the subject. We think about it for five minutes over there and drop the subject. We're constantly thinking about it for five minutes. Is that of any value? No! Not of any value at all because it takes two or three hours. We have to have two or three hours to really think it through. So if we can discipline ourselves to make an appointment.
That's what I say: Make an appointment with yourself when you have two or three hours. On your day off: You say, okay, 10 A.M. on my day off, going to sit down from 10-12 and think this through, list all the pros and cons, come to a decision. If I think about it between now and then I'm going to tell my mind: Go away; I have an appointment with this project. I'm going to think about it at this time on this day and if it comes up between now and then I'm just going to dismiss it and say: Go away; I'm busy doing something else. You know, I don't need to think about you.
So we can handle our mind in a disciplined way; we can be more content. That's Gurudeva's point. And the first step toward that is to observe. We need to see what we're thinking about. Am I thinking about the past? Am I thinking about the future? We need to be observant of our thoughts. It's the idea of the forest and the trees. Are we seeing the trees or are we seeing the forest. If we're seeing the trees it means we don't have an overview. If we're seeing the forest it means we have an overview. So, quite often we just think about the past, the future, we don't have an overview about of what we're thinking about. We're just doing it. So, we need to step above it; be observant.
And Gurudeva says, you know: You can strengthen your power to observe by abstinence from obsessive talk. If we talk too much then, you know, it's like we're going down down down into the trees, you know. If we refrain from excessive talk then we're rising above them and we can see the patterns and then address the patterns. If we see positive patterns that's good. If we see negative patterns we're thinking about things that are a waste of time and we need to find a way to eliminate them. And the one we're talking about now is talking about major decisions as an example. Unnecessary thinking about the future. We can make an appointment.
So, have a wonderful day.