Fixing the mind at any place or on any object is a difficult task. I have had my troubles with it. It is the first and perhaps the final task we need to be good at to achieve anything in life. We all have certain leanings in us. Some like music and gets easily absorbed in it, to some others it might be some other things. But everyone has the talent to concentrate on the things that they like in exclusion to everything else.
Yet to gain control over the mind one needs to fix it on the most uninteresting of things. It would resist like hell every time you try to make you do it. But this is how you tell your mind who is the real master, who is in command and in the driving seat. But before I go any further with this I would like to point to an important difference in the concept of the mind among the western and the eastern systems of thought.
In the west the mind is taken as a part of consciousness, that is, part of the self. Thus mind is considered as a sentient entity. This makes it absolutely difficult to control. For how would you control the self which is the real controller!
But in the east, especially in India mind is conceived as Jada (inert). It’s an object in the phenomenal world. It appears sentient only because of its proximity to the self. This is an important difference and a very helpful one. An object can easily be controlled and made to do whatever the self wants it to do. There is whole philosophy on the subject, that is, how the world evolves into what we see now before us, but it’s not necessary to learn all that for our purpose.
I would talk here of a certain practices I used to follow to gain such control, to some these might look very insignificant and simple techniques, but don’t let the simplicity deceive you. This is the biggest step that you are going to take in your life, make no mistake about it. By adopting complex procedures you can easily deceive yourselves that you are making progress, not with these ones. You would know for sure whether you have made any progress at all while doing them.
Take up any tiny object, any uninteresting object will do, let it be a small pebble, a hook, or a button or anything you can find, hold it in front of you and look at it steadily, all the while thinking about it. Force your mind to think about it in isolation to everything else. Everyone would have their own method of thinking, so it would be unwise to outline it for you. Yet for the sake of illustration let us outline one. Say you are thinking about a button-
Well turn it in your hand, notice its shape, color, design, any flaws you can find in it, its material, its size, whether it’s smooth or rough to the touch, the way it is to be attached to the dress, where it is produced, how it is produced, the place you obtained it, its function, and so on to everything that you can think about it. These are not instructions to follow one after the other, these are only suggestions and you can improve on them.
You might believe that you know all about them even without consciously taking note of their features, or that they are trivial, but remember that you are not trying to check the extent of your knowledge or trying to expound your philosophy of life. You are trying to put your entire mind at work on an insignificant thing. The only way to keep yourself interested in it is to think about it without allowing your eyes and mind to wander.
Try doing this for five minutes every day. You will soon find how tiring it is to keep the span of attention for more than a minute or so. If you succeed doing it for five minutes the world would look very different to you from then onwards. You will start to observe the minutest details of the things that you see around.
Another technique is to try to follow a thought to its end. Some think we need a wealth of knowledge to do that. Again we are not trying to prove how knowledgeable we are. It doesn’t matter even if we know next to nothing about it. Keep it simple. Take up any word or idea, the less complex the better.
Any word will do. Day, road, sky, wild, summer, wind, you know it can be any word. Think of anything and everything on it, but keep at it for five minutes. This would make you hold a thought for a longer time. It helps you focus.
You can devise any number of such exercises yourself, but if you the above two regularly it would be enough to get you on your way to your final conquest of mind.
in fact there are only two methods to do that, practice and dispassion as Pathanjali terms them . Let us take up practice first.....