Quieting the Mind
Sant Mat is a beautiful path in which we follow a way of life and a meditation practice that enable us to quiet our mind and focus it in an inward direction. Through this quiet focus we connect with the Shabd, the sweet melody that is in each and every one of us, and find our way to the Creator.
The subject of quieting, controlling, and pacifying the mind is as old as humanity itself. It is an essential aspect of any positive journey – whether purely spiritual or material. In Spiritual Gems, Maharaj Sawan Singh says:
The ﬁrst essential thing is concentration – bringing the scattered and scattering attention in the eye focus. It is the attention or sense of feeling, mind, and so forth, no matter what name you give it (for at this stage it is a combination of all), that is to see and hear within, just as it is seeing and hearing outwardly now. The same force which is working in the world outside, through eyes, ears, and so forth is to work within, through the inner eye and the inner ear, in the inner worlds.
The first step in quieting our mind utilizes the same mechanism that we use for all our outward quests: concentration. Just as we gather information about the world through our external senses and focus on that information, so through meditation we learn to focus within. We cannot focus externally and internally at the same time. It is like reading a book and talking. Reading a book requires turning inward while talking requires turning outward. In our everyday life we can easily switch between inward and outward activities. This is encouraging for all of us when we want to turn our attention inward for meditation. We already know how to do it! Maharaj Sawan Singh continues in the same letter:
Like the switching off and on of an electric current from one aperture to another, we should be able to switch off and on our attention from the physical, material world, or the physical body, to the inner, ﬁner world and the inner, ﬁner or astral body. The attention, like the current, is the same; but it is to work in different spheres. Collection and holding of the attention at the eye focus is to switch it off from the physical world and the physical body. When this is achieved, concentration is complete. We should then be entirely cut off from the material world and our own material body but conscious within.
Because our attention has been running wild, outwardly from the eye focus, not only during our present life since our birth but in our previous lives also, so to hold it at the eye focus is an arduous, uphill task. The habit of staying out from the focus has become second nature. But there is no reason why we should not be able to overcome a habit. It only needs effort and determination.
Great Master says that it only needs effort and determination. Let’s look at these two qualities. Effort is something that we practise every day, all day long. We need to put in effort to do our work, to do our chores, to cook our food. Without effort we can’t even get out of bed in the morning. Determination is a little bit different. It does not necessarily come into our conscious sphere of living until we want or need something specific – something that we are not getting. There are countless examples of determination in life. How about working late to get a promotion, getting up early to exercise, getting up early to go shopping because of a specific item we want? Reading review after review of a product until we find the right one?
These two skills that we need for meditation – effort and determination – are skills that we already use all the time. We just need to redirect them. When in meditation we find that our mind wanders out, we use these tools of effort and determination in order to bring it back to the quiet place within ourselves. The Great Master says in Spiritual Gems:
A devotee is sometimes not conscious of his mind wandering out till later. He should keep watch over the mind, and if it goes out, he should bring it in again and again. Thus by constant practice, the mind will tire out and become motionless. It requires time and perseverance. It is not an easy task to make the mind still and to keep it motionless. But one should not despond. As the mind becomes quiet, the Sound will become clearer and the body will become numb.
When our mind has wandered out, the only thing to do is to make the effort again with our simran to turn inward as soon as we realize it. Simran is really just a constant repetition of a simple process. It is like when we try and teach a dog to sit. We have to repeat that training many times before the dog can actually sit and not move until we give the next command. We do not give up on the first try or the second or even after many more times. Why? Because we know that the dog is perfectly capable of submitting to our commands and that it will take time, and the only way to get there is by repetition. So it is with the mind; we keep reeling it in when we realize it has wandered, and we do not stop that effort – ever. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Quest for Light:
The only way to subdue your mind and make it more receptive to spiritual efforts is to make more spiritual effort. For millions of ages our mind has been out of its centre. This outward and downward tendency has become such a habit that naturally it requires some time and constant effort to bring the consciousness back out of the lower centres.
When Hazur says “for millions of ages,” it seems incomprehensible. How can we be discouraged when we have only been trying to quiet our mind for five minutes, or five days, or five months, or five years or even fifty years when we have to contend with the millions of years that came before? We cannot possibly be discouraged because we know that the effort required has to be continuous. We do not simply get somewhere and then stop our effort, in this case our meditation. No matter how far we get, we still keep up with the effort. We also need to understand that the effort itself is part of the reward. And the reward of that effort and determination is that we quiet our mind and become one with the reality that is already within each of us.