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6. How to Be Present

Have you ever watched a movie that’s out-of-sync? When the audio and video are misaligned it’s practically impossible to give your full attention – the lack of congruence is too annoying! Our life can often become like a dubbed, out-of-sync film; the body in one place, but the thoughts in quite another. Such absent-mindedness impairs our capacity to appreciate life and achieve our highest potential.
The mind has become one of the biggest talking points in 21st Century medicine. Never before have we had such surging numbers of people experiencing issues in their psychological space. Though unnatural lifestyles and imbalanced habits have clearly contributed to it, the problem of the mind has been a perennial one, whether or not we define it in today’s clinical terms. Thus, a significant amount of dialogue in the Bhagavad-Gita is dedicated to the subject of the mind – how to identify it, understand it, control it and ultimately harness it for wellbeing and spiritual elevation.
In Chapter Six, Krishna highlights that control of the mind and the ability to bring it to the present moment is an integral aspect of all yoga practice. Without reforming the useless, distracting and annoying mental chatter, we can’t really progress. The mind travels and absorbs – it enters into objects, places and people, and they can easily enter into it! The mind has a dreamy tendency to assume things were better in the past or they’ll improve in the future, unwilling to wholeheartedly embrace the situation as it stands. It often sees the problems in every opportunity, instead of seeing the opportunities in every problem. The mind, it seems, is on a relentless mission to distract us from finding perfection in the present.
It’s not that the past and future are irrelevant. We have to learn from what has happened, and surely we plan for what may come. Yet in the midst of that we have to find a way to live in the moment. Many, however, have resigned themselves to the mental state they find themselves in, convinced that there is no way to reform the uncontrolled mind and escape the negativity and limiting thoughts that subsume them. Krishna, however, offers multiple tools to remould the mind, most powerful of which is mantra meditation.
The metaphor of an internet browser can help us understand the mind. Just as Mozilla Firefox has a default homepage, the browser of our mind has a default fall back – a vision and way of thinking that it always returns to. We have favourites in our browser, and the mind similarly entertains desires and dreams that have been inspired by people and places. Just as a browser has a history, the mind is ingrained with impressions from past experiences. A browser has an autocomplete, offering options according to where we’ve browsed before. The mind also gravitates towards experiences and emotions which immediately resonate.
Thankfully browsers can be reconfigured; browsing data deleted, settings personalised, aesthetics adjusted and updates installed. The mind is no different. Step by step, bit by bit, slowly but surely, we can craft a beautiful mind that walks with us in the here and now. Beware, however, because even optimised browsers are subject to pop-ups! While we live with this mind, there will always be that inescapable element of unpredictability. Fear not, however, the trick is to identify the mind, instead of identifying with the mind!

“Lord Sri Krishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment.” (Bhagavad-Gita 6.35)

References

6.35 – Control of the mind can be achieved through practice and detachment.