Mind is connected to your mental health
The mind is one of the most complex parts of human existence, and the part that requires the most discipline. The mind is NOT the brain – it functions through the brain. Your mind is your awareness, and it exists all through the body. Every cell in the body has its own intelligence.
The mind is composed of four elements, each of which has a specific role, but all of which have an effect on each other.
(i) Mana – This part of the mind works with the 10 senses which are all connected with the material world, constantly tempting the mind with worldly enjoyments. The manas receives all of its information from the outer world, therefore it is the centre of wrong-doing. How many times have you known that what you are doing is not helpful but you do it anyway? Our bad behaviour is motivated by our habits, even though our intellect tells us that it might be unhelpful or destructive. Since the manas is so powerful it is this part of the mind which needs the discipline – this is an integral part of yogic practice.
(ii) Buddhi – This is the centre of your intellect. It is your internal compass, guiding you to do the right thing; but when you ignore the buddhi over a period of time it stops working properly, it is no longer certain of what to do. The power of the buddhi lies in determination. When will-power is weak, the mana easily reverts back to the behaviour that it knows, i.e. your old habits. Our emotions are what often direct us, so we need to find balance between our feelings and our decision-making. Through disciplining the senses in the mana, behaviour becomes more balanced which provides the foundation for your buddhi’s ethical and moral principles. These principles are then available for future reference when we are uncertain of how to act.
(iii) Chitta – Most of our actions are directed by the chitta, the place where our habits are stored. Habits formed early in life are very difficult to break. We also carry habits from many previous lifetimes, so often we are not even conscious of why we behave in a certain way. By learning to observe our actions we can begin to live consciously.
(iv) Ahamkara – This represents the ego, your personal connection with the external world. It identifies who you are, and is a necessary part of life: it allows us to differentiate things in the material world. But the ego believes that everything exists because of it – almost every sentence that a person utters has the concept of I, me or mine: “I have done this”, “Look at me”, “This is my … (wife, car, achievement etc.)”. It always wants to take the credit for everything. The ego forgets that it exists only because of the soul (a person only exists only because of the soul) and each individual soul is connected with the Universal Soul, making us all a part of each other and the rest of the world. However, in the material world the individual soul mostly uses its power to alienate it from others; this is the greatest cause of unhappiness. Your yoga practice can help to purify this ego. The ego has to be made aware of the source of life – only then can your awareness expand deeper. When you realise that you are deeper than your physicality and the mind, you have realised the power behind the thoughts. This is how you can gain mastery over the mind.
The ego is not a bad thing; how it is used is what matters. The trained ego is aware that it exists only because of the soul, that there is something greater than the “me” that it refers to, and it therefore surrenders to the Oversoul. Once your eyes are closed in meditation, the ego no longer has any significance. Being a man or a woman, wealthy or poor, single or married, all becomes irrelevant; in that state one truly connects to the soul, and through that it connects to the Universal Soul where everyone is equal. It is the common denominator for humans.
The ego plays a significant part in the way we behave. We can practice conscious living by looking for ways to see where we can stop acting for our own selfish interests, and change the “I” in our thinking to “we”. Acting to include the interests of others and performing selfless actions to benefit others all help to direct the ego.
Finding balance between the four parts of the mind is the key to maintaining your mental health. The obstacles in sadhana are the memory (chitta) and the ego (ahamkara). Old habits distract our practice, and the ego defends these habits. The buddhi tries to remind us of the right thing to do, but when we haven’t listened to our intellect over a long period of time, it stops working properly. New habits can be formed through regular practice. You need to have faith in the process until you start to experience transformations in your life. Once you experience the changes, your faith will be reinforced, which will in turn strengthen determination.
The four components of the mind work in conjunction with each other. Man’s bondage is caused by the mind, so liberation can be achieved only through the mind. The mind can bind you, but it can also set you free.
We are constantly merged with our thoughts and ideas, so we are not living in reality. The patterns of our mind keep us in a continuing cycle of thinking, but yogic practice helps you to separate yourself from that cycle so that you can help your mind to dwell in the present, and heal yourself.
In our upcoming blogs we will share different aspects of practices which help to discipline your senses. By disciplining your senses you can discipline your mind. This is what helps you to develop your grounding and focus.