Here’s an interesting fact about the human body – the tongue actually rests upon the upper palate of the mouth. This seems so contrary to the idea that it is rooted in the lower palate. But this is also one of the main reasons that we find the idea of resting horizontally very appealing. Almost all our organs automatically find their resting position. It is relaxing. It brings a great sense of calm to our being.
While thinking about the natural resting position of the body, I began to think about the resting nature of the mind and the intellect as well. Do we ever allow them a moment’s pause while we are awake? Even in our sleep, our mind tires out with the incessant dreams we conjure. So, truly rest is possible only in a condition of deep sleep. Then, the faculties of our mind and intellect must be exhausted during the course of the day. Running from one thought to another, lapped up in one feeling or another. Truly is there a moment’s rest for the brain?
Perhaps, this is why our ancestors and teachers emphasised so much on finding stillness and silencing the mind. Even as we stare at laptops or books throughout the day, we crave a ‘break’. During the ‘break’, we find ourselves glued to the screens of our mobiles, TV or tabs, watching or consuming other forms of entertainment. Does our mind ever stop buzzing then?
Imagine the brain which entertains close to 60,000 thoughts in a day. What is the quality of the thoughts entertained? It ranges anywhere from the mundane activities of the day to severely complex problems that we face at work or in school. Where does the mind find the energy or clarity to handle these thoughts? It surely needs its own break to recharge. But so few of us make it a habit to give our mind a break.
In Sanskrit, the term for solitude is ekanta. Eka – one, and anta – the end or goal. Being with one’s own self, without distractions, is the true purpose of solitude. Do not confuse it for loneliness. Finding solitude also doesn’t mean shutting oneself in a place devoid of human presence or trekking to the mountains, far from the madding crowd. Solitude is the very capacity of our minds to shut out distracting thoughts and feelings, to focus on one’s own Self. Yes, ‘Self’.
Imagine this ‘Self’ like the sea-bed that supports the thousands of lapping waves every day. The bed doesn’t change. Though the waves are also incessant, for a brief, microsecond, we can observe that which is unchanging and constant. Between two waves, we see the bed, we feel it beneath our feet. Similarly, even as we try to silence our mind, we will be able to find those small moments, where thoughts cease to exist. This is the mind at rest.
So, what is it about the mind at rest, which makes it a strong spiritual practice? A buzzing mind will latch on to various things in its environment. It entertains feelings for people, generates ideas about events and problems, overthinks trivial matters and swings with great volatility between memories of the past and the anxieties of the future. Such a mind loses precious energy. Swami Chinmayananda emphatically calls them ‘leakages of the mind’. A pipe with so many leaks loses all its vitality eventually.
And all the objects of concern, be it things of the world, our relationships with people or even problems to be solved at school or work – they are all temporary and ever-changing. The mind then flits to the next thing. This exercise never ends. The leakages only grow with time. There’s no way to plug the holes than to actually put the mind to rest.
‘The mind at rest is a temple of joy’, Swami Chinmayananda reiterated. Find those moments of stillness and allow your mind to rest. You will find, just like the tongue and the body in deep sleep, that the mind too is fully recharged and closer to its own natural state of being. Silence those thoughts, find your solitude and just be.