Understanding Thoughts and Improving the Mind

Understanding Thoughts and Improving the Mind

In thinking of ways to improve the mind, let us start with understanding thoughts.


We are all used to either Listless Thinking or Compulsive Thinking. Listless thinking is when the mind is engaged in thoughts even when we are not paying attention. Compulsive thinking is when the mind engages in thoughts that constantly change from one subject to another without any rhyme or reason, but continues to engage our attention, or it is when we are engaged in obsessively thinking on a subject that consumes us.

Recall that we are not in control of our minds. The mind instead controls us most of the time. Most of our actions are the result of some thought in the mind. Even when we talk about impulsive or reflex actions, these actions are based on memory of previous such actions, what are called Samskaras, or memories buried deep in our minds from previous experience. Because the mind is just a storehouse of thoughts and memories from the past. These Samskaras have a way of controlling our thinking or channeling our thinking along predetermined paths, outside our control. This is what leads to impulsive behavior, the behavior that is created by knowledge and memories of previous actions. Although actions involve the body, it originates in the mind.

What does Yoga do for the mind?

Yoga brings integration to a disintegrated mind. An examination of our lives reveals that there is disintegration. The physical, mental and spiritual needs of our lives are considered different and therefore addressed differently. Yoga is the way to integrate the Physical, Mental and spiritual aspects of life.

“Yoga brings integration to a disintegrated mind.”

People want peace within and think that this will happen by bringing external peace. This cannot happen. We yearn for a peaceful world. Yet, the turbulence we perceive is not in the external world but in our minds. If the mind becomes peaceful, we will see peace all around us.

Meditation brings integration into our lives. It is the art of paying attention to one’s own mind.

All our attention is outside, life outside, the stocks, our jobs etc. We have to look within and understand the function of the mind. What are the thoughts the ego is engaging in?

Pay attention to the machinations of the mind and you will begin to understand it. Understanding and watching the mind will bring it under control. Meditation is therefore the art of paying attention to the interior of the mind, within the conflicting Vasanas (deep-rooted tendencies) within the mind. Vasanas are predilections, based on the Samskaras, the thoughts and emotions buried deep in the mind as a result of the previous experiences, good and bad. The Vasanas which are entrenched in the mind are responsible for the problems we have.

Knowing and understanding the mind is conquering it. However, it is not to be construed as “control” or “conquest”, but of understanding it so that it can be guided in the proper direction.

6825832562_de4c764516_oWhat is it that we are trying to achieve?

We have already decided the following:

  1. We want happiness and peace
  2. Happiness and peace is not available from the external world. If it is available externally, we would all be ALWAYS happy.
  3. Sadness and lack of peace comes from seeking happiness from the outside world.
  4. The want we feel comes from our own feeling of insignificance and smallness, based on ignorance.

The Problem is “Me” AND the Solution is “Me”

The biggest problem we face in being Atman/Brahman is that we are used to, in life, looking for solutions to our problems outside of us. In other words, when we are faced with a problem which we perceive as outside of us, we are looking for a solution also outside of us. But with the Atman, the lack of knowledge or the ignorance is in me and the solution, the Atman, is also in me. Our ignorance does not allow us to understand this simple concept, because it is so foreign to us. Thus the need in us to find the solution in the world, which is in itself a problem. The fruitless search continues through our entire lives, and we pass on, ignorant of the fact that we are both the problem and the solution. In summary, I am the problem, I am the seeker for the solution of the problem, and the solution is in understanding myself for who I really AM.

As mentioned previously we are all Samsaris! Samyak sarati iti Samsara, that which constantly changes is Samsara. We have established that anything that changes cannot be Real or the Truth. The world which is a phenomenon occurs in the background of the Changeless noumenon called Atman. Because change can only be recognized by something which does not change. We continue to strive to achieve fulfillment in this changing world, and never give up until life is exhausted, a constant process of Becoming, instead of Being what we really are.

~ Hari Om

Tirun Gopal

Tirun Gopal MD, is the Medical Director of the Department of Ob-Gyn at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco. He is devoted to enhancing the health of the average American through lifestyle changes, dietary modifications and Eastern Herbology, and providing Complementary Care through Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Yoga and Meditation.
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