Monday, November 03, 2003

The Instrument of Mind

The Instrument of Mind

We forget that we have a mind sometimes. Well, one could say that this is normal, because we are also not aware that we are using our eyes, ears and hands most of the time. We just receive input, process them and generate the necessary output.

The output or response that we generate are in the form of action or words. Most of our responses are instantaneous. Someone says something and we respond immediately. The whole of our waking lives are filled with such automatic stimulus-response transactions.

What determines our responses? Why one particular response and not another? We are aware that the quality of our response determines the quality of our lives. Our response triggers a set of corresponding responses from other people which then determine the chain of events of which we are inexorably caught.

We often respond based on "instinct", based on the tendencies of the mind, or what we would call our nature. We could laugh, lash out, criticize, sulk or even react violently. Sometimes we do not react, but only because we are consumed by fear--which we have no control of.

At times such reflex responses are necessary--good sportsmen are often instinctive: An avid golfer would tell you that golf is a mind game, not because you need to use your mind that much but more because the distractions of the mind are often the greatest obstacle. We train to perfect our strokes so that everything becomes instinctive. The mind only creates doubt which we can do without. Doubts and distractions only arise because we do not have conscious control of our minds.

We claim that we do think before we act. But most of the time our minds are so clouded that this so-called "thinking" ultimately reduces to a reinforcement of existing trains of thoughts and tendencies inherent in the mind. Nothing original comes about.

Then is it possible for us to always respond in life with the right action or the right words? How do we control the tendencies of the mind?

First, by remembering that we have a mind. And that the mind can be put under our control and is the only intermediary between stimulus and response. Without the intercession of the mind, we would be mere automata.

How then do we regain this control? We do it by stopping the inflow of stimulus and consciously introducing a non-random stimulus into it. In other words, do a mental checkpoint. Reexamine your inner motives. Realign them them with your goals. Restart your engine. Reset. Reboot.

Well, sometimes we call it meditation or prayer.

The only problem is, we are often reluctant to stop this flow of stimulus. We do not like to remain quiet, not even for one minute: we need to switch on the TV, listen to music or talk to someone. The mind abhors a vacuum. We treat our minds like how we treat our computers when it is idle--we run screensavers.

Many of our daily activities are just "screensavers". We just want to fill up the mind with something, even noise. Often it is just a form of escapism to drown out reality or painful memories. Silence equals loneliness. We try to consciously forget that we have a mind.

Let's say we pray five times a day. By doing so, we subject our minds to regular realignments that help us handle the stimuli that come our way throughout the day better. At a superficial level we are reminding ourselves of our divine obligations. And for those who are not religious, we could reaffirm oursleves of our goals in life.

Our minds, like pianos or any other stringed musical instrument, need to be constantly tuned. A perfectly tuned mind responds to stimuli in harmony with the laws of Nature or God's Will. To Bach lovers, the mind should be like a "Well-tempered Clavier".

To tune the mind, first eliminate ambient noise and all external stimuli. Listen to your thoughts and feel them subsiding. Without external stimuli they die. The mind becomes quiet. Then slowly introduce your desired thoughts, one at a time. Listen to how each one vibrates. Feel its pitch. Let them reverberate throughout your mind. Let them sing.

We often treat our musical instruments with great care but for some reason subject our own minds to all sorts of abuses. Time for us to remember our minds, the ultimate instrument. For the mind is instrumental in determining the quality of our lives.

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