Some of the great Yoga Masters have compared the mind to a drunken monkey that has been bitten by a scorpion! You have such a mind, but when you allow the mind to do whatever it wants, you don’t really notice how mischievous it is. It is only when you try to keep it in one place, that you realize how restless it is. For example, you might have a small dog at home. Normally, you don’t restrain the dog and it just freely roams around the house. One day you might be expecting a friend to come visit. You know that even though the dog is a quiet one, it doesn’t appreciate when outsiders come into the house. Since you don’t want to create a scene, you decide to keep the dog away from the guest. Remember, all these months and years you just left it roaming around, but on this day you decide to tie it in a corner. Do you think it’s going to be quiet? The minute you tie it, the dog will demand to be released. Why? Because it was used to running around as it pleased. Now you are trying to control it and so it rebels.
Similarly, the mind rebels when you want to practice concentration. You are trying to tie the mind to one thing. So, the mind finds all excuses to run around here and there. But you should not become discouraged. It’s quite natural, so just be strong and try to bring your focus in again and again. Sometimes the mind will create all kinds of physical pains here and there. It’s something like when you are deeply interested in a novel that you love, you don’t feel any pain anywhere no matter how you are sitting. You can read for hours and hours, but if you take up a history book, the next minute your body may feel uncomfortable. This is the reason that when you want to practice concentration, you must select something that the mind would already be attracted to. The mind should love to focus on your object of concentration. Don’t ever think that you are wasting your time and then get up and go away. Be persistent.
Suppose you decide to sit for 15 or 30 minutes. Just stay there no matter much the mind runs away for all that time. Within that amount of time, the mind would have run away a 100 times during the first week. But, if you keep on practicing, in the second week it will only run 90 times. Gradually, the running part will be reduced. Remember, you are trying to train the mind, which is very, very subtle and it is normally restless. If you have ever practiced piano, you know. In the beginning, you have to look at every key and press each one, consciously. When you think of the fingers on the key, you forget about what the foot is doing. When you press the pedal with the foot, you forget the fingers. So, in the beginning you make many mistakes, but don’t ever lose courage. Keep practicing and maybe within a few months or within a year or two, you won’t need to worry about the feet or the fingers. You just see the audience, and you play beautifully. This is because practice makes everything perfect.
The mind is the subtlest thing in the world. So, to train the mind and make it more calm, it takes a long time. And when you are trying to keep the mind in one place, it helps to analyse why it wants to run here and there. That’s a very important point to understand. If you can’t keep the mind in one place, and if it constantly runs to the cinema, then you know that you are very keen about going to the cinema. You might not even take good notes for your schoolwork, but you will have lots of notes about every movie that you saw. So naturally, when you want to keep the mind in one place, and it keeps running to the cinema, you should try to reduce the cinema part. That is because prevention is better than cure. You need to block the path where the mind would like to run and, at the same time, you are getting the mind trained to stay in one place. To do this, you should be careful about your actions and thoughts in your daily life.
You should try to stay away from anything that would disturb your life. That is why discipline is given in every religion. The Ten Commandments are an example. In Yoga, we have the Yamas and Niyamas. In Buddhism, the Dasa Sila. Once you achieve some discipline, you will find it easier to meditate. In fact, you don’t even need to meditate if you keep your mind from running away. You will automatically be in a meditative state. Concentration and meditation are two very important practices in Yoga.
While you practice concentration on a particular object at a certain time every day, you will be strengthening the mind. Then you can also apply that same kind of concentration in your day-to-day life. You should not just concentrate in front of the meditation altar, but you should concentrate on everything that you do. When you drive, concentrate well on the road. When you eat, concentrate on the food.
Nowadays in the West, it’s a habit that if you want to have a business meeting, you invite the person to lunch or dinner. I never go to a gathering without eating before I go. Very often, I am invited to a big party in my honor and the table is filled with things to eat. But the minute I walk in, one or another person comes and I am introduced. We stand there and talk and talk and talk. Finally, the host feels sorry for me and brings me a plate of food. But by the time I put something in my mouth, somebody else comes over and asks me to say something about this or that. So, after several times of this, I learned what a party is, and before I go to the party, I eat something at my place, because I believe in doing one thing at a time. When you eat, eat. See the food and smell it; see the beauty and feel the loving hand that prepared that food for you.