Guarding Our Minds
All of us guard our homes from harm, theft and danger by installing security cameras and alarm systems but we rarely guard our minds the way we guard our homes. Guarding our minds like how we guard our homes from ignorance, fear, anger, doubt and all negative cognitive thoughts and emotions is vital.
“I shall never let mindfulness depart from the doorway to my mind.”
Guarding our mind’s cognitive thoughts controls the subsequent emotions and actions that will follow the thought. By watching our minds the way we watch a sunrise, monitoring its ever slight movement upwards and changing tones in the clouds, we remain alert not to allow contamination to enter the “doorway” of our minds.
Contamination of the mind has a negative causal effect on our mind and body. They obstruct out daily vision, causing confusion. Once confused, we will loose our mental strength and participate in wrong actions. Often individuals who commit act of killing, theft and others are under such confused state of mind.
The originally nature of all man is kind and compassionate. When a man commits a crime like killing or manslaughter, they could have acted under the intoxicated influence of “anger”. When we become angry with someone or a situation, we are not able to see “objectively”, hence how can we make an “objective” decision – we usually do not. When negative thoughts surges, it blazes up in front of us like games, engulfing all cognitive ability to rationalise or act rationally, so people commit acts that they wished they had not.
“Examine again and again the condition of my body and mind”
Remember, there is no magic in this, it is simply the commitment placed into reviewing the status of your mind, body and action all the time. Once we become aware that negative thoughts exist and have made an entry into our minds, we have two options: to fuel it or to turn it away. Fueling it does not bring any benefits to ourselves nor the people we love in our lives. We should make it part of our daily practice to turn it away by not following it, allowing it to depart and closing the door on it.
Each time we do this, we are training our cognitive mind to eliminate the negative thoughts and their poisoning effect. Over time, the mind learns to do this naturally.
Alertness in Our Speech
Apart from guarding alertness of our thoughts and actions, we should also practise awareness in our speech.
“When talking, I should speak from my heart what is relevant, making the meaning clear and the speech pleasing.”
Being English educated, I sometimes have a tendency to beat around the bush and have a hard time getting to the point as I was taught not to be confrontational in conversations. Over the years, my Yoga practice has taught me to adopt “focus” and “honesty” in my conversation.
We were reminded that we must speak from our heart meaning we must speak what we truly feel. We must also speak with “relevance” to the question asked or the subject discussed and not about what we simply would like to talk about. What we want to talk about is important to us but not to the person listening. By talking about it and rambling on and on about it, we are allowing our “ego” to play up and we are ignoring the person in front of us. There is no awareness in this type of speech.
In being completely honest, we must also learn the art of putting our point across in a manner that is not rude, too abrupt or may stimulate negative feedback from the person listening. This is what he means when he said, to make our speech pleasing to the other person. It is also another form of compassion, as we do not want to hurt or make the other person suffer any pain.
Source: Shantideva’s – A Guide to the Boddisattva’s Way of Life, Chapter 5, Guarding Alertness.