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6. “I’m too active – I just can’t focus.”

The complexity of modern civilisation is mind-boggling, causing us all, monks included, to complicate our lives in order to keep up. It’s a far cry from the villages of bygone ages where people moved much slower and spiritual culture was woven into the fabric of day-to-day life. The chaotic environment relentlessly bombards our consciousness, generating a myriad of agitations and provocations. “I’ll never be able to spiritually connect,” some people say, “I’m too energetic, active, and restless – I struggle to sit quietly for even five minutes!”
Arjuna is on the same page as us, while Krishna is one step ahead. In Chapter Six, the consummate warrior, equipped to battle anyone or anything, admits his powerlessness in contending with his own formidable mind. He says his mind is uncontrollably flickering (cancalam), agitated (pramarthi), powerful (balavad) and stubborn (drdham). “To control the mind,” Arjuna concludes, “is more difficult than controlling the wind!” Most of us living in the urban jungle are faced with the same predicament.
Some posit that meditation is out of the question, though in reality it’s an indispensable necessity! We need to revisit the logic. You don’t cure your disease and then go to the hospital. You don’t fill your belly and then visit a restaurant. You don’t get fit and then signup to the gym. These places and activities are actually there to help you achieve your goal! In the same way, the reason we factor in spiritual stillness, sometimes forcibly, is because it’s the only way to cure our chronic restlessness. If someone comes to me and says “My life is so chaotic that I can't meditate for even ten minutes,” then I look at them and reply, “For you, meditation is prescribed for twenty minutes!”
Krishna is not suggesting we turn away from being active, energetic and driven. He instead recommends that we direct our energies in the most effective and efficient way, and to do that requires scheduled times of non-activity and contemplation. An archer’s goal is to hit the target as quick and powerfully as possible. Ironically, the first movement is to pull the arrow away from the target. It may seem antithetical, but that backward motion allows one to generate more power, pinpoint the aim, and seize the most opportune moment to unleash the energy.
When we sit down to meditate, a million thoughts may whizz through the mind, impelling us to jump into action! There may be doubts and uncertainties about situations, friction in relationships, worries and concerns about issues, excitement and anticipation about future opportunities. The mind is a busy place!
We remind ourselves that everything in life is perfectly resolved by deepening our spirituality. The problem is not other people – it’s often our own lack of tolerance, empathy and sensitivity. The problem is not the situation that surrounds us – it’s our inner rigidity, stubbornness and lack of broader vision. All our aspirations and dreams can be fulfilled beyond our wildest imagination, but only after we fine tune our motivations and shelve our selfish agendas. Everything is achieved through spiritual purity, and spiritual purity comes from determined, focused spiritual practice. After we meditate, perspectives change, and life looks much different.

“A transcendentalist should always engage his body, mind and self in relationship with the Supreme; he should live alone in a secluded place and should always carefully control his mind. He should be free from desires and feelings of possessiveness.” (Bhagavad-Gita 6.10)

References

6.36 – Yoga practice and mental control must go hand in hand.