What would it be like if one of our hands moved without control, grabbing things and throwing them around, resisting our attempts to stop it?
Our mind does exactly that. It latches onto any thought, whether we want it to or not, and only with an incredible effort are we able to direct it elsewhere. When instead we want to focus on a particular object, it runs away in any direction, tossing everything about.
The mind, the most powerful organ at our disposal, is also the most undisciplined.
Clearly, gaining some sort of control over our minds is fundamental. Being someone with a hyperactive, or in Yoga slang, rajasik (fiery, agitated) mind, controlling it has always been one of my biggest challenges. Over the years, I have experimented with different methods to tame my mind, and today I want to share with you one that has been particularly successful.
On an ordinary day, as I go around doing my stuff, my mind often anticipates what’s coming next and plays it as if it was a movie on a screen. I have a name for this activity: I call it “rehearsing.”
For example, let’s say I have to meet someone for an important talk in a couple of hours. My mind will reproduce the situation again and again like a broken reel. In my head, I may be talking to that person dozens of times, making tiny variations, imagining different outcomes.
I could be rehearsing events that are days or months ahead—sometimes even my own death. Or, the lag could be much more subtle and difficult to spot, as when my mind anticipates events for only a handful of seconds. Talking to someone, and imagining what he or she is going to say next. Doing a yoga posture, and thinking about the next one.
It goes without saying that this both takes me away from the present moment and consumes mental energy. If I’m constantly rehearsing something else, chances are I won’t do a great job of whatever I’m doing now.