Tips on mental housekeeping. Managing the growth of the mind.
Energy is a universal requirement for life. Even the most basic cellular functions require significant amounts of energy. Sunlight, water, and food are the sources of energy for the body, and these energy substrates are the foundation for everything else we do in life. The body is highly efficient in extracting and storing energy. Even though sunlight, water, and food may be in abundance, the body uses what is required and any excess, to a limited extent, is stored for later use. The mind depends on the incoming sensory information from the five senses for its growth. No experience from the world can enter our mind unless they pass through one of the five senses. Unlike the body, which sends a signal to pause eating once the stomach is full, the mind does not send out a message to the senses to cease bringing in experiences. That is the nature of the mind. Managing the growth of the mind becomes our responsibility and may be a challenge in light of the enormous amount of sensory information we process every day.
Like the body, the more we feed the mind, the more it bulks up.
This growth of the mind, however, is invisible to our eyes which are projected towards the world. We cannot easily assess the scope and dimensions the mind assumes over time. Our conscious perception of the mind's contents is probably only a tiny fraction of what is stored in the mind as a whole. By modifying or changing that small fraction of mental energy we interact with, we cannot easily influence the rest.
By learning the workings of the small and visible part of the mind, we can infer how the mind operates as a whole.
A small sample of water from a mighty river can give us an idea on how clean the river is, similarly a random sampling of our thoughts offers information on the overall orientation of the mind. Although the specific contents of thoughts may be extremely diverse, there are some necessary foundations which sustain them. These foundations could be fear, possessiveness, openness, love, hate, ignorance, wisdom, self-centeredness, gratitude and so on. There may be only a handful of predominant themes that run through our thoughts at any given time. Dispassionately watching thoughts may help us in uncovering some of these themes. These may change from time to time, hence a regular practice of such introspection may be essential to develop.
Once we have some level of understanding of how the mind operates, we can prime the mind and then use the mind to its full capacity.
Most of us use the mind in a 'fire fighting' role, cleaning out bits and pieces of unhappiness as they come, which can consume the mind in flames of misery. A lot of time and effort goes into this activity, and it is a never-ending process.
In the meantime, as we are tackling misery-inducing thoughts while also searching for the ones that promote happiness, the byproducts of our sensory experiences accumulate as waste in the mind taking up valuable mental real estate. To taste a fruit, we must bite into it so it may reach our taste buds. We may eat the fruit while discarding the skin and seeds. Experiences are like fruits. To get a taste, we identify with thoughts that go along with any experience. When we do this, we may enjoy the fruit of that experience, but the seeds get left behind as the desire for more such experiences along with the 'skin,' which is the memory of the sensations experienced through the sense organs. These accumulate in the mind, while we ignore the fact that they are in essence, waste byproducts of sensory experiences.
Just as the body digests food, extracts nutrients and turns the rest into waste matter, the mind absorbs an experience, extracts enjoyment and what is left over becomes stale thoughts related to that particular experience. Soon the mind will be overrun with these byproducts which are a memory of experiences and the desire for more. Unlike solid waste, we don't have an aversion to mental waste products as they are beyond the reach of the senses. Experiences may be forgotten, but their imprints cannot be entirely erased. Those imprints can be refilled with future experiences that may follow a similar pattern. This further deepens the groove and ultimately shapes our personality.
The mind requires cleaning periodically to keep it light and healthy and relatively free of unwanted memories and desires.
Even though the mind may have an enormous storage capacity for thoughts, and space does not seem to be a constraint, it is essential to keep the mind relatively empty and open. This mental cleanup can be done anytime and anywhere. Sleep serves more of a maintenance role, helping to balance the energies in the mind. It does not get rid of experiences.
In a house full of clutter, for example, there will not be any room to bring in a new piece of furniture, even if it is newer and more expensive than what is in the house. Furthermore, in an aesthetically furnished house, the furniture and their arrangement are in good harmony. Similarly, when thoughts clutter and fill up the mind, we cannot bring in new ideas which may more elevating and of higher value to us. We have a choice when it comes to rearranging the mind.
It is a matter of will and effort to clean the conscious mind and replace the contents with thoughts of more beauty and value.
Just as a nicely furnished house is primarily for the enjoyment of the owners and not for the pleasure of strangers, a well-appointed mind with good thoughts is for our enjoyment. If the house is shabbily kept, we would not want to invite guests. The heart is the most important guest the mind can invite. The heart adds respect and stature to the mind.
Great are the people who are led by their hearts and work with their minds.
The mind is like a dry river bed, and the heart is like a flowing river. It is the river that reaches the sea and not the river bed. Similarly, it is our hearts that reach other people not the dry bed of the mind. Soil from a river bed has a chance of being transported to the sea when water flows. Otherwise, it may never reach the sea. Similarly, our thoughts have a chance of entering the sea of all hearts, which is humanity, when there is a flowing river of the heart within the mind. Once a river begins to flow, there is no need for any external to push it along, the currents keep propagating downstream.
Similarly, once we clean the mind and make it a suitable bed for the heart to flow, it will continue flowing with little or no effort on our part. Then, no matter what experiences comes in through the senses, they will not have a chance to create a new bed of thoughts. The heart will continually wash away the remnants of those experiences. Just as large coarse rocks are left behind, and only the fine sand is carried downstream, unessential thoughts will be left behind and what takes us forward in life will be good and essential thoughts.
The further a river is from its source, broader and deeper it gets. Similarly, the heart makes us flow further away from the narrow stream of the ego, and makes our thinking broad and deep. The heart makes us flexible and adaptable just as the river water joins the sea and quickly becomes salty like the rest of the sea.
A mind that is flexible, adaptable and moves with the current of love can grow to any size, and not just us but the world will also benefit.