Sunday, October 13, 2013

Think less, think better (1) - Learn to meditate

As we grow up we learn to speak, to count, to read and to write. A lot of trial and error and most of us get along reasonably. But no one ever taught us how to think - how to create the right type of thoughts and avoid useless, unproductive and even negative ones. Thinking just seems to happen as an endless stream. Whatever appears in the mind takes us with it, produces feelings and moods and may even distance us from reality.
Recently I was giving a talk to the executives of a regional airport authority in Brazil, all a little stressed out due to getting the airports ready for the 2014 World Cup. I asked the participants how would it be if they ran their airports in the same way they ran their minds. Everyone laughed, but it was a serious question. During the rush hours, the main domestic airport in Sao Paulo can reach a peak of a plane landing or taking off every two minutes. The mind is like an airport. Thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations and inspirations land and take off with an even faster speed. 
I made a quick calculation. If there are 1,440 minutes in a day, and to make it easy, we spend 440 those sleeping, that leaves 1,000 of wakefulness. If there is some mental activity even every two seconds this adds up to 30,000 'flights' a day. These fragments of consciousness swirl around in an often meaningless way, hampering our clarity and concentration. Bits and pieces of our thinking reduce our determination and productivity. In the same way that an airport has to have an air traffic controller to sequence the flights and avoid accidents, we need to learn how to think in a more ordered way. Raja Yoga meditation is a great way to do exactly this.
Using thoughts and not denying them or trying to go beyond them, we can literally train ourselves to think less, think better and achieve more. It's a step-by-step process:
1) Create an aim for your meditation. Think what you want to experience, for example, peace, love or spiritual power. Write down a few ideas connected with the experience that you want to have. These ideas will become the 'field of contemplation' in your meditation.
2) Become a detached observer. Look at the stream of thoughts like a passenger in a train looking at the scenes passing by the window. Don't try to fight the thoughts. Just look at them and remember that you are their creator. No one else has come into your head and is creating your thoughts. You are. If you try to stop thinking something it will get stronger. So, just let it come and go. Put your attention on the seat of consciousness, where you are actually thinking. Visualize a subtle seat behind the eyes, in the middle of the forehead and sit your thinking there.
3) Remember your aim. Let's say you had decided to experience your own spiritual power. Look at the ideas that you had written down. What is spiritual power connected with? Can my thoughts reach the Source of spiritual power? What does it feel like to recharge the inner batteries? If you were more powerful internally, how would you look like with relation to your work, relationships and the tasks that you have to do? In this way you create a 'field of contemplation' in which you begin to slow down your thinking and become more focused.
4) Gradually one of the ideas seems to become more important. If you had to become the essence of the aim of spiritual power, which of the thoughts that you are thinking is most connected with that? Focus on that one thought.
5) See yourself as a tiny point of conscious energy and gradually become the embodiment of the experience that this focused thought implies. As you go deeper into the experience you actually stop thinking. You are no longer intellectualising about what's happening. Stay there for some time, and gradually come back to the wariness of your surroundings.
If you can do this type of mental exercise on a regular basis you will definitely learn to think less, think better and achieve more with less effort.