Anxiety is a common ailment these days. It is defined as a nervous condition involving excessive worry, overthinking and fear, usually resulting from imagining negative outcomes. The most common complaint of someone suffering from anxiety is that they can’t stop thinking. From this perspective, it would be safe to say that most human beings suffer from anxiety in one way or another.
Disciples on the spiritual path are no exception. At every question-and-answer session, inevitably someone will say to the Master, “When I meditate, I cannot concentrate. I cannot stop thinking about all the things going on in my life.”
Mystics tell us that if there is one thing that stands in the way of our experiencing the Shabd, it is uncontrolled thinking.
As long as we keep thinking, we will forever remain like an airplane flying in circles, unable to land at the seat of consciousness.
Who is watching where our thoughts take us? Is anyone in control of our undisciplined mind? Like a spoiled brat, our outward, undisciplined mind does as it pleases. Our thoughts wander on their own without anyone keeping watch over them or being careful where they take us. We have become addicted to keeping our mind entertained in the world. We have no control over this addiction. The outward mind is always multitasking. We can be streaming YouTube videos, tweeting, checking out how many ‘likes’ or new friends we have on Facebook, listening to our playlist, taking a selfie – all this while thinking about other stuff.
Our addiction to thinking has become such second nature for us that now we can’t even consider the possibility that there is a whole different aspect of our mind that is beyond thinking.
from self to Shabd
Sant Mat teaches us that the way to go beyond thinking is to raise our attention to where the mind becomes motionless. In the Bible it is written, “Be still and know that I am God”. Only when we go beyond ourselves and our mind becomes still, can we enter the realm of peace.
Throughout the decades, the true Masters have advised us again and again that the way to do this is through simran. When we do simran during the day when the mind is free, it may not seem like we are doing anything significant, but it makes a big difference. As the saying goes, every penny makes a pound. Little efforts of remembrance strung together help us detach our attention from the human experience so that when we sit for meditation, it is that much easier to gather the attention at the eye centre.
Consider this analogy. Imagine a bowl of honey sitting on a table. Now take a tiny marble and put it on top of the honey. The marble would sit there on top of the honey and perhaps very slowly sink into the honey. Now put a pair of arms and legs on this tiny marble and imagine this marble man flinging his arms and legs about, what would happen? Marble man would most likely sink faster and deeper into the honey. But if he were to just be still on top of the honey, he would probably remain buoyant for some time.
In this analogy, marble man is our attention; the honey is our human experience; and marble man flinging his arms and legs is our thinking. The more we think – the more we entertain the mind with frivolous thoughts – the deeper we sink into the sticky experience of our human life. So imagine if for the entire day, amidst all our worldly obligations and responsibilities, we keep thinking about our work, our problems and worries, and on top of that, during every free moment we are on our phone, reading and playing games. By the time we sit for meditation, how much simran would marble man have to do to get to the eye centre? Two hours would hardly be sufficient.
On the other hand, if we were to put our attention towards simran (or listening to the sound whenever one hears it) instead of, let’s say, endlessly checking WhatsApp, email or Instagram, the attention would not sink so deep into the human experience. Eventually, when we sat for meditation, it would be that much easier to collect the attention and raise it to the eye centre.
By repeating simran (the words given at the time of initiation) we slow down our endless, uncontrolled thinking. Once thinking slows down and the mind is concentrated at the eye centre, then by focusing the attention on being receptive to the sound within, thinking will go by default into ‘pause mode’ and the mind will become still. This will allow us to move into a higher level of consciousness, different from that of thinking, and conscious contact with Shabd will be a real experience.
from self to Shabd
Simran is the ultimate remedy for anxiety. It is also the key to accessing the Shabd. Once we learn to get in touch with the Shabd at will, we will be able to put our thinking on ‘pause’ and automatically, anxiety will be replaced by peace, brought on by an attitude of acceptance and surrender.
Besides, the mystics ask us: What is there to think about anyway? Basically, our entire life is programmed. Like a movie that has already been released, nothing can be changed.
When a movie is released, wherever or whenever anyone watches that movie, it will always be the same movie. Whether it has a happy ending or a sad ending, whether one likes it or does not like it, one could analyze and dissect it to death but not a single scene can be changed because the movie has already been released. It’s a done deal.
The same is true for the movie of every human life. It has been released and has been playing since the day we were born. It is for this reason Hazur Maharaj Ji tells us that “nothing is in our hands, that what has to happen has already happened at a different level, at a different stage.”
The question is whether one is able to recognize that fact and relax, sit back and watch the movie of our life as a silent spectator. Sometimes, there are episodes of drama, sometimes comedy; sometimes there are heart-warming scenes and sometimes there are horror scenes. But in the end, there is really nothing anyone can do except watch it all unfold. So what is the use of getting anxious?
Worldly activities go on according to previous karmas: as the karmas become manifest, they work themselves out. So have no apprehension about them; sometimes they are good, sometimes bad. There should be no anxiety about them; your anxiety should be about meditation.
Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters