The mind’s ability to continuously produce one thought after another is utterly amazing and, at times, annoying too. Thoughts, most often, are the first response of our mind-body system to external stimuli. In today’s world, where our senses are continuously bombarded with information, it is not an easy task to control our first reactions – thoughts – in response to the external stimuli.
Thoughts are also a continuous internal dialogue all of us engage in, the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggering the next, usually without us being consciously aware of the process.
There is nothing wrong with thoughts, per se. However, excessive thoughts, just like other excesses in life, deprive us of the much needed mental rest and relaxation. We tend to live out of the Head and deny ourselves the bliss of living from the Heart. Another important issue to consider is how many of the thoughts we think are positive, supportive of us and how are they serving us. The next issue is how to deal with the thoughts that do not support us, that do not serve us and that are not positive.
Yoga psychology explains that our Karma – specifically the ‘Samskaras’ portion of our Karma – forms the grooves along which our thoughts flow. Every person’s personal Samskaras are formed from the memories of the past. These Samskaras usually compel us to think in the same pattern over and over again without us even realizing it.
Yoga philosophy says one of the most effective ways to calm the mind and its chatter and master the thoughts is meditation. Meditation can shift the mind from a state of distraction to one of deep concentration. A growing body of modern research corroborates this method of mastering the thoughts, which was discovered by Yogis of ancient times. A recent study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital has shown that meditation produces changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in the areas associated with memory, empathy and stress regulation. Meditation is proven to increase the production of feel-good hormones and support our immune system.
Well-known social scientist Edward Carpenter says, “If you inhibit thought and persevere, you come at length to a region of consciousness behind thought and a realization of an altogether vaster self than that to which we are accustomed.”
In meditation, we disrupt the unconscious chain-like progression of thoughts by focusing on a specific object of attention. The object of attention could be an image, the breath or a sacred sound. Well-known meditation guru Deepak Chopra says, “In the practice of Primordial Sound Meditation, the object of meditation is a mantra that you repeat silently to yourself. A mantra is pure sound with no meaning or emotional charge to trigger associations. It allows the mind to detach from its usual preoccupations and experience the spaciousness and calm within.”
These days many techniques of meditation are available to us. For the visual learners — artists, painters or designers etc. — meditation involving visualization is often recommended. Auditory learners and those who connect easily to music or ambient sounds can harness the power of sound through mantra meditation techniques. The high-energy, restless types might benefit more from walking meditation or meditation in motion.
The Spring is almost upon us. Most of us like to engage in spring cleaning our homes, garages and storage areas, get rid of the excess stuff we accumulated and enjoy the resultant lightness of space and spirit. This is the perfect time to set up a regular meditation practice, cleanse the excessive thoughts and enjoy the resultant lightness of mind. Good luck!
Acharya Ram is a Yoga philosopher, Kirtan leader, Sanskrit teacher and Sitar artist. Ram belongs to the spiritual lineage of Dattatreya and his spiritual Guru is Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji of Mysore, India. Based in Toronto, Canada, Ram travels all over North America and India teaching Yoga Philosophy and Sanskrit, conducting Kirtan and Mantra chanting sessions, training Kirtan leaders, performing and teaching Sitar. Ram’s core values are ‘authentic tradition’ and ‘modern presentation’ in all areas of endeavor. Ram is known for his impressive ability to teach even the most intricate texts of Yoga in an easily understandable manner, using modern presentation tools and current examples, making the learning experience enlightening and fun at the same time. His Sanskrit courses entitled “Sanskrit the fun way” are sought after for their relevance to the Yoga world and orientation to the native English speakers. Ram’s Sitar music is highly applauded by many Yoginis and Yogis for its soothing, meditative quality as well as its calming effect.