When someone asks you where you live, you would typically reply with a city or area name. This exhibits that we live in a certain external environment built for a comfortable life. However, this is not the complete reality. Most of us live in our minds. We experience this external world based on our beliefs and perception. Take a pause and see how you perceive the area where you are right now. You may be in your house or in the office. You may like the white ambience but you may not like the noise of colleagues. Or there is a possibility that you may hate the white and prefer more vibrant colours but you enjoy being surrounded by colleagues. External factors are the same but we all experience them differently.
We spend so much time correcting what is outside and hardly spend any time nurturing our inner self. In fact, we live our whole life from within. How we see our external world is merely the reflection of what we feel from the inside. The person may have all the physical comforts and luxury in life but if his mind is disturbed, then he cannot enjoy any of it. If the person is sitting in a cave and have to beg for food every day but still if his mind is peaceful then he lives happily. The everlasting peace and happiness have very little to do with the palace or a cave. They are part of our inner world. So the question is should we look for them outside or within?
What does it mean to go within: Going within has multiple layers, some may touch the surface and some go deep. I see this journey at two major levels, the first is to realize that our mind is the creator of our external world, in other words, the condition of our mind decides how we experience life. Step by step we remove the impurities of the mind and make it one-pointed. The next level is to realize that there is a soul which is beyond the body and mind who is part of the infinite. It may take lifetimes to realize the soul but in this life, we can work on the mind and achieve peace and happiness.
Going within at the mind level is to first realize what our mind is thinking, then slowly take control of it. We need to train our minds to think the thoughts we want them to think. We master skills like discriminative thinking, meditation, decision making, unselfishness, responding instead of reacting and detachment. The effects will be seen in how we face difficult situations, how much affection we show in the relationship and how much peace and happiness we feel.
Why should you do it: Let us look at the lives of two people, one who has rags to riches story and the other who wasted his life after addictions. The story in first-person goes like this, he was born in poverty, worked hard, achieved success and made millions, lived comfortably and died. The story of the second person, he was born in poverty, got addicted to alcohol and drugs, wasted his life in jail and died. In both cases, we can see that success, failure, poverty, and richness all are temporary.
By all means, we should aim for the life of the first person. It is important that if we have taken birth, then we make the best use of it. However, we also need to realize that in the end, we all die. Guruji Naushir says that life is impermanent and hence all things that are connected to it are also impermanent.
We need to ask questions such as, what is there more to life? What is permanent? House, jobs, and money all are part of our survival and we need them but what is beyond survival? We all seek growth, but we seek it only in the external world whereas that feeling to grow is coming from inside. Going within means looking at all these and trying to find answers and believing that the true growth is unfolding our true self and not buying bigger houses or cars. Material growth is needed to live a comfortable life and inner growth is needed to live a happy and peaceful life.
How to do it?: There are many ways to work on the inner self and different people based on their temperament can choose the path they get attracted towards. I have mentioned the below paths in brief and ways to walk on them.
Discriminative thinking: Deep thinking is good but right thinking is best. Dwelling upon the right thoughts opens up many doors. It also helps you to get rid of thoughts of low nature. Discriminative thinking is like a sword as it separates the permanent from the impermanent. You develop the mind to see the situation as it is and not based on your memory and past perception. For, e.g. realizing that you do not have control over what life gives you, but you can control how you respond to it.
Discriminative thinking or independent thinking can be developed through regular sessions of sitting in silence and dwelling upon what you might have read or experienced. Set out some time in a day for 10 mins and just go deep in thinking on any particular subject. Do not allow any thought of other topics. It’s good to read scriptures or other books that help you raise the vibrations of your thoughts.
Meditation: Much has been said about meditation and that is a problem because everyone gives their own definition. As per the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, meditation can be divided into three parts, Dharna, Dhyana and Samadhi. They are different stages of meditation. For a start, let us understand that it is about concentrating the mind on one object, either external or internal. There are many techniques of meditation and one that anyone should be able to do is breathing meditation.
Breathing meditation: Take a posture that is comfortable for you, preferably cross-legged. Keep your spine, neck and head straight in one line. Relax, take three deep breaths. Post that, come to normal breathing and get your attention either on your belly or the space below your nostrils. These are the places where you can feel the movement due to inhaling and exhaling. Your mind may run towards different thoughts, bring it back to focus on breathing. Do this for 15 mins every day, preferably in the morning.
Service: The joy that we feel while giving cannot be matched by any other act. It does not need to be money only. There are many ways through which you can serve other human beings. A smile, extending our hand for help, giving blessings, good thoughts or caring can go long way in giving service. We may not realize that we are the ones who get benefitted when we help others. Our mind purifies when we do acts of service. Unselfishness helps us remove our attachment and aversions and free us from many of our impurities. Service to other human beings makes us realize that we all are part of one big family.
Devotion: Being an atheist is in fashion now and everyone wants to question religion without giving it a try. Religion is like any other science, the difference is that the experiment happens in the mind and not in any lab. Devotion is not limited to rituals. Meerabai, a famous devotee of Lord Shri Krishna, did everything out of her love for God. She didn’t follow any particular path. She just danced and sang in the temples while submerged in the love of Shri Krishna. True devotion means seeing God as a living entity. In devotion, you believe that God is living with you or within you and every act is like service to him or her. This allows your mind to have more divine thoughts and less anger and jealousy.
Above is a very brief description of different paths. You may choose one or more and remove the impurities from your mind making it more peaceful and happy. These paths also take you to the realization of the soul but as of now, we will only work at the level of mind.