An immutable fact is that human beings through the ages have learnt to use the mind to achieve extraordinary feats, as well as to attain happiness. Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), the Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical missionary and philosopher, said that success is not the key to happiness. Rather, he observed, “happiness is the key to success”.
So many self-help books nowadays tell us that the mind is a magnificent tool. I agree with that; but I would like to propose that our minds can be used for more than just accomplishments and the pursuit of happiness. And what is more, for the highest purpose, we actually have to lose our minds.
Many of us are familiar with the writings of Rhonda Byrne. She has now written three books in the same genre: The Secret, The Power and The Magic. Byrne says her intention is to bring “joy to billions”. We could summarise her ‘secret’ by saying that one must control one’s thoughts and only think and speak of the good things that we want in life. Imagination and good feelings play the primary role. J.J. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter books, said something similar in her graduation ceremony speech at Harvard University in 2008. She stressed that we don’t need magic, we just need a powerful imagination to change the world for the better.
According to Rhonda Byrne, we can use the mind to help us give love—and love has no limits. The force of love can give us health, happiness and an incredible zest for life. So I conclude that the prime purpose of the mind is, by love, to attract all good things into our lives.
The second purpose is to give the mind wings. Mind is the origin of imagination, which helps us to cross new rivers and come up with fresh ideas to improve our lives on Earth.
However, we are here to use the mind for grand intellectual pursuits, too. One of the most superb engineering achievements of the last century was the launching of Voyager 1 and 2. Miraculously, these spacecraft are still out there in the cosmos. Apparently Voyager 1 is now nineteen billion kilometres from Earth, and has passed Neptune and Pluto. It is approaching the outer edge of our solar system. This is, of course, primarily a technological triumph; but it takes tremendous intellectual genius to drive such technology.
Through the ages, mankind has also used the mind for prayer and devotion to a higher power. I visited the ancient site of Avebury in Wiltshire, England on my sabbatical leave this year. The site, a remnant of Neolithic times, is England’s largest henge monument. It consists of an outer circle of stones with two inner circles. Originally, there were apparently four hundred stones; now only twenty-seven are left. Some of the Avebury stones are massive: the heaviest is the Swindon Stone, at sixty-five tons. There are two closely-placed stones that may have been the entrance to a ceremonial area (see photo). I heard the guide explaining that in general, the stones were used as a portal to other dimensions.
Worshippers apparently gathered at Avebury to celebrate life and death. (The nearby Stonehenge site was used for worship of the sun and moon.) The site has a magical aura to it. The atmosphere of greatness and reverence, so rare in our contemporary world, makes one think that modern society might have lost something precious over the years.
I came across a strange story about stones and extraterrestrial contact during a recent trip to South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains. The imaginative powers of your mind will be challenged by this one! Apparently, there is a small beacon of stones on the top of Champagne Castle Peak, the second highest peak in the Drakensberg (3 377 m). In 1990, an eighty-two year old lady, Elizabeth Klarer, asked that a helicopter take her up to visit the beacon. Her belief was that this beacon, and another three in Germany, Scotland and South America, were used by spaceships to navigate celestial dimensions! On arrival, she walked to the cairn of stones and proceeded to repack them. Then she pointed her marble-sized ring, made of crystal, at the cairn. To everyone’s astonishment, the ring started to vibrate. For her, this was proof that the beacon was operating. Ms. Klarer told the guide that in the event of an alien invasion of Earth, this site—along with the other beacons—would be the safest place on the planet, as aliens would never destroy their own navigation system! If you visit the summit today, you will find a patch of ground where no grass grows. It is here that, in the centre of a four-metre diameter area, you will find a small pile of stones!
So we can use our minds to attract ‘good things’; to exercise our imagination; to think intellectually; and to pursue devotional ends. How else could we possibly use this extraordinary resource?In order to attract good things, however, we first need to tame the mind. An untamed mind can actually attract bad things! In his DVD Time is an Illusion, Eckhard Tolle says that modern anxiety comes from our minds. We project ourselves into the future, where we build the most awful ‘what if’ scenarios. To this famous spiritual teacher, the anxiety-driven modern person is actually mentally unsound! Here, the mind represents an obstacle, rather than a resource. It leads us out of the moment, making it impossible to experience the beauty of the Now. Furthermore, if we believe our mind-made calamities, we will actually attract them. No wonder some ancient texts say the mind acts as an enemy for those who can’t control it.
Echoing some of India’s enlightened masters, Tolle goes on to caution us against identifying with our thoughts. His advice is not to interpret, but just to be. This kind of ‘taming the mind’ means to ‘transcend the mind’. Even Dr. David Hawkins, a Western teacher of enlightenment, says that the mind is not really you; as soon as you have realised that, you are on your way to real freedom! Dr Hawkins says that the ego and the mind are one and the same; the mind is actually the block to Self Realization. To be able to lose the ego and so transcend duality is what I would like to call the highest purpose of the mind.
Transcending the mind and reaching this higher purpose seems to be very challenging! Everything we have learnt and worked for—our image, money, job titles, status, and so forth—must be thrown out the window. Now, how many people are going to do that? My common sense says very few!
So is the idea of taming the mind fact or fiction? Is it an achievable aim, or just a spiritual ideal destined to remain eternally inaccessible?
It seems that what it takes is to surrender the mind and all our false beliefs in order to open up to the blissful state of Spirit. This state or reaching of Enlightenment can shortly be described as an unusual state of awareness that replaces the state of our ordinary consciousness. Ramana Maharshi, enlightened Indian spiritual guru, is much more direct in his teachings on this issue: “Everyone is committing suicide. The eternal blissful natural State has been smothered by this ignorant life.” Maybe entering this dimension is the portal to a life experienced in all its beauty and fullness.
Life is such a great experience. Whether we will ever reach the real eternal blissful State, of course, is all a matter of Grace. I hope you are all using your mind to gain happiness for when we are happy, we are in tune with Spirit. Let’s all enjoy the mystery and paradox of this life by attempting to use our minds wisely, whether we can tame it or not!
- Byrne, Rhoda. 2010. The Power.
- Klarer, Elizabeth (1910–1994). Her book Beyond the Light (2010) has been made into a film by Chris Roland (ZENHQ Film Productions).
- Tolle, Eckhardt. 2011. The Illusion of Time (DVD).
- Hawkins, D.R. 2011. Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self. Edited by Scott Jeffrey.
- Maharshi, Ramana. 1972. The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi. Foreword by C.G.Jung.
This article was published in Odyssey Magazine, Issue 3, 2013, pg 62 – 64, under the title “Taming the Mind”.