On the road to Self Transformation, we will begin with mental transformation. Mind is made up of thoughts and such thoughts are devoid of any essence. Thoughts take the form of conversations. The practice of observing silence forms the basis of mental transformation. In this post, I am expounding on the nature of conversations. In the next post on Self Transformation, I will cover the actual practice.
Of the human urges, a great one is the urge to talk. It is believed that all living beings communicate in their respective languages. Humans, however, due to developed intellect and conditioned self, have developed the system of holding elaborate conversations. If you look around you will find most people talking most of the time. A lot that is being talked is not heard. The urge to talk arises directly from the restless mind. Whether such talk is useful or useless, positive or negative is subject to individual interpretation. Before we delve deeper, I would like to elucidate the types of conversations, their point of origin and impact thereof. Purely from the perspective of engagement of mind, they are of three types: Here:
These are the outcome of an outwardly focused mind. All conversations held with others using words or gestures are physical conversations. Majority are holding these for most part of the day. This could be in the shape of writing emails, phone calls, in-person conversations and the like. Gross conversations, believe it if you can, add to the unrest of the mind. These ones are the primary cause of one’s turning outward. A mind that has become extrovert will compel you to derive all enjoyment from external phenomena. An external journey is incapable of offering you permanent bliss. It may have many short steps of joy or pleasures but not an infinite supply.
A good way to start turning inward is to reduce the number of these conversations as much as possible. Given your personal, professional and social engagements, it may not be possible for you to cut down on these a great deal immediately but getting started with resolve will unfold the path for you step-by-step as you continue to move. Once you get used to staying quiet for long periods, you will experience certain quietude of the mind. That will, ineluctably, diminish the urge to talk. Next time you want to talk about weather, politics etc, hold the urge for it is unlikely you will gain anything out of it, and, chances are that the other person is not actually listening to your point of view anyway. Most people are not really listening but simply waiting for the speaker to finish his point so they can begin theirs.
Most social conversations are pointless and unnecessary engagements of the conditioned mind. With the advent of social networking sites, such conversations are becoming a greater part of the lives of many; only contributing to impatience and restlessness of the conditioned mind.
These ones are the result of an unsettled mind. When you are not talking to someone, chances are, you are holding a communion with yourself. Thoughts when pursued are mental conversations. These do not allow your mind to rest and settle. Mental conversations are also the greatest hurdles in holding lucid sessions of meditation. Due to conditioning since ages, your mind has got so used to talking that either it is holding a gross (read physical) conversation with an external entity or it is talking within you with itself. The unfailing sign of a restless mind is its inability to stay quiet. A mind that is brooding over matters, or a whining negative mind, a lustful passionate mind or a talkative restless mind are examples, triggers and boosters of mental conversations. The only two ways, known to me, of stopping these conversations are either engaging your mind elsewhere — a temporary fix — or, quieting your mind — a permanent solution. The former can be achieved by pursuing an intellectual desire (read The Desire Tree for more on this term) and the latter can be achieved by either firmly establishing yourself in the bhava of bhakti or the practice of meditation.
The path of meditation, albeit arduous, when trod with focus and resolve yields great results. Till such time that you achieve proficiency in the practice of meditation, start being aware of your mental conversations. Each time you find yourself holding a mental conversation, stop it. Do not stop it by trying to control or curb it, instead stop it either by ignoring it or by concentrating on the point of your focus. Remember, your mind only talks if you listen to it.
When you are not talking to someone else nor are you holding a self-communion, in great likelihood, you are holding a subtle conversation. Since the mind is unsettled and restless, you want to keep it engaged, almost involuntarily. Like the hyper and naughty kid the parents want to keep busy. Wonder what subtle conversations are! When you are not talking to anyone nor to yourself but you are watching others converse, you are holding a subtle conversation. Harder to detect, your mind is actually processing information helping you either derive joy or displeasure or simply just stay busy. With these ones, you cannot directly contribute or affect any change. Watching TV or listening to radio are examples of subtle conversations. Stereotypically, without prejudice and justification, men do not hold the first two types of conversations as much as women, therefore, they often compensate by engaging in these ones. You will find men glued to TV more than women and more frequently at that. The more restless the mind, the greater the flicking through the channels. Reading a book is a more useful form of subtle conversation. For, your mind is more listening than processing and directly engaging in an act of learning.
In essence, an untamed mind must find an outlet and conversations provide exactly that. How can the mind attain a quiescent state if it is always talking! It is for this reason that people find sleep relaxing. For, among benefits to the body, at least they are not aware of the talkative mind beyond recollection of their dreams. Is it any wonder that brain cells only get repaired during sleep? A good way to understand your reliance on subtle conversations is to make a resolution to not watch TV, read newspaper or listen to radio for a certain number of days. The degree of dependence on anything can be only be ascertained when you are deprived of it.
The nature of conversations, e.g. material or spiritual, can have a temporary bearing on the state of your mind. Any conversation can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The pleasant ones you find engaging and the unpleasant ones you want to avoid and the neutral ones can swing either way depending on your interest. And interest in any conversation is the direct result of the conditioning of the mind. Someone who has conditioned his mind with repositories of information on politics or automobiles will find those topics interesting compared to those who may be more interested in fine arts or literature, for instance.
Mind is quite quiet when it has been tamed so as to not hold any of the aforesaid conversations. It is in that quietude alone you will start to experience the true nature of your mind. Once you are able to hold that quietude starting from long periods to as long as you want, deep tranquil absorption (samadhi) is imminent. The real work begins once you are able to sustain and maintain your state of Samadhi. More on that will follow in due course.
As for the actual practices you can adopt to rid of these conversations, I shall document those in due course starting from the next post on the present subject matter. For now, just the awareness will supply you with enough fodder. And, of course, you can make a conscious effort to reduce the number of conversations across all categories and start enjoying the benefits of a quiet mind.