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Mind Management One Thought at a Time
Ann: Dear Sundari, time flies! I think of you and James every day. In fact I spend almost every day with you guys ☺, listening to your courses (the Gita over and over, the Mandukya too), reading and rereading satsangs… I don’t really have questions. Most of the time life is smooth. But there’s still this battle in my head. I keep up my sadhana, I try to spend as much time with Vedanta as possible. My lifestyle re family commitments is rather hectic and I’m certain that doesn’t help either, karma yoga “getting forgotten” from time to time. But it would be untrue to say I’m stuck or running in circles. There is more peace, more balance and more love in this life, more love for Isvara (including for Ann!), and I know this will take as long as it will take. This love and this Isvara though are so immense that whatever “steps I’ve moved” seem tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny…
I’ve seen you do Skype sessions, and I haven’t had the courage to book one yet. I don’t have specific questions about the teaching; I have questions about thought management – how to tolerate thoughts, how/when to negate them… and even these I’m not sure I could formulate clearly enough. I know you are busy, and I want to be respectful of your time. What do you think? Could we set up a time? Would you talk to me?
Sundari: It’s great to hear from you again, Ann. I am so glad to hear that you are still as dedicated as ever to your sadhana. The interesting thing about Self-knowledge when you are so committed to Self-inquiry is that it works constantly in the “background,” scouring away the ignorance. Once Self-knowledge gets turned on, its almost impossible to turn off, for long. And it is very hard to assess how much progress you are actually making other than to note how much happier you are, basically. Life in this crazy world is always a mixed bag, and sometimes it can seem like the jiva program just keeps doing its thing and nothing much has changed. Yet much has. Often we forget just how much has changed about the way we typically used to respond to life. This is clearly true for you from what you say here.
Vedanta does not change the jiva essentially, it just objectifies it. And in so doing, there is a buffer zone that grows between you and “your” personal (jiva) mental-emotional state. It is fine whatever is going on in the mind, as long as you do not identify with it. Thank God Self-inquiry is not about perfecting the jiva, because that is impossible. However, if we want to be free, peace of mind will never be permanent until we have transformed all our binding emotional/psychological disturbances into devotion to the Self so that nothing ever disturbs the mind enough to make it condition again to smallness. Though we must honour our feelings as a jiva, if Self-knowledge is firm, the mind is like Teflon, nothing sticks for long.
Understanding mithya and discriminating you, satya, from it 24/7 is where all the teaching takes place in Vedanta. Self-inquiry is applied knowledge because if it does not translate into your life as a jiva it is of no use to you. Discrimination, mind management, happens one thought at a time. Whatever thought is passing through the mind does not come from you, not as the Self nor as the jiva. The gunas generate all thoughts. You will have typical thoughts that are specific to your Isvara-given program, “good and bad,” along with a bunch of thoughts that are generic and universal, fear-thoughts particularly. There really are no unique thoughts.
While we cannot control what we are going to think, we can learn to think deliberately, which is what taking a stand in awareness as awareness and thinking the opposite thought is all about. Mind management is about how you respond to thoughts and emotions, whether they condition the mind or not. The litmus test of how free we are of the jiva’s stuff is simply, how long does the shit stick?
We are all doing our best; it’s okay to slip up sometimes when the old jiva patterns catch. Even though we may still have some residual jiva issues going through nididhyasana, that does not mean we are any less the Self. My best favourite saying is “the steps to get there are the qualities of being there” because you are never not there as the Self. There is no there there. So never hesitate to love your not-self, warts and all!
You are more than welcome to set up a Skype chat with me (or James). We will always make time. There is nothing to fear or be intimidated by; we are your friends and one with you as the Self.
~ Much love