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Minding the Mind

The other day my sons and I were watching the movie Kung Fu Panda 2 when the concept of “inner peace” was spoken about by Master Shifu to Po, a young stout Panda who was chosen to be trained to be the dragon warrior and assigned the job of saving the village.  

We were in the holiday mood, had some laughs, enjoyed giggling at all the tricks and kung fu acrobats and had an entertaining evening watching it, but what stayed on after that and the days to come was the deep philosophy and the concept of “inner peace” which Master Shifu tried teaching Po.  

What is that which can help still the mind and what was Master Shifu doing to achieve it? Why is it so difficult to focus to find inner peace? What is all the hype about being still and finding “inner peace”? Well, these questions and more propped up for discussion and then began our journey of discovery. 

The famous saying that the “mind is like a monkey” is so very true and apt. In our daily lives we are constantly spending a lot of time mulling over the past or brooding about the present or anxious about the future. In the process, our mind is scattered, less focused and at the end of the day feels drained and exhausted. Added to that, the external world and its idiosyncrasies cater to the distractions and deviations holding it back from moving on and living and dealing with the present.  

So how does one find the inner peace that Master Shifu tried teaching Po? Does it take years of practice or is it merely some sort of a placebo that fades away with time or is it only meant for the sages and masters who live in the hills away from other worldly responsibilities? And most importantly why is it essential? 

Well the answer lies within each of us. Just imagine the feeling when we take a walk in a  lush green rainforest, feel the cool breeze on a mountain hike, watch children playing in a park, hear beautiful soulful music, smell the first drop of rain for the season or savor our favorite dish after a long time. 

A sense of joy fills our hearts and brims our eyes. Serenity creeps within us, even without our realization. We stop thinking and just soak ourselves in the moment. The attention becomes fixed on just living that moment and to the fullest. There is no judgment, neither is there a sense of urgency nor any thought. We just feel happy and joyous being in that moment. I guess that is when one finds a taste or has an inkling of what “inner peace” could be. 

When we say Mind, we think of a single entity that does all our thinking for us, however according to the ancient yogic texts there are four entities that comprise the mind. They are Manas, Buddhi, Chith and Ahankar. Manas is primarily our memory and what we carry with us as part of our experiences. Buddhi is our capacity to reason and intellectualize. Chith is our consciousness, which is a silent watcher in this whole game of life and finally Ahankar is our Ego or the sense of ‘I’(identity) we give ourselves which we carry with us. 

These four aspects interplay and juggle within to create impressions, expressions, judgments, thoughts, emotions and basically rule the way we lead our lives. When we take quiet time-outs doing practices like yoga, meditation, prayer, self introspection or deep contemplation, we establish a deeper connect with ourselves. We learn to get rid of the excess baggage of emotions, thoughts and feelings we carry which hold us back and make us unproductive. We learn to accept reality and energize ourselves with positive affirmations which aid in achieving our dreams. We also learn the art of accepting, forgiving and letting go by being more kind and compassionate.  

So, if we wish to aspire to find that inner peace, the first step is to tune out from the humdrum monotony of our daily lives and fill ourselves with abundant calmness and serenity, so our actions exude the same. A daily practice of 10 to 15 minutes is good enough to tune our minds inward by just sitting quietly and merely watching our breath. As we let the thoughts come in and go out, we learn to relax and breathe slower and deeper. Slowly but surely the number of thoughts keep dwindling till we are left with one final thought. We allow our mind to rest and repair in that moment. This then transcends to our daily life and helps us become mindful of our thoughts, actions, words and deeds. 

A few minor changes in our daily life can help mitigate the fluctuations of the mind. Minimizing the amount of information overload through social media channels and other resources, being mindful of the kind of people and conversations we engage in, leading a healthy lifestyle and doing our work with dedication are some ways which can aid us in the practice. 

Well the holidays are now over and we are back to school, juggling homework, projects, classes and other parental responsibilities and chores, but we as a family remind ourselves time and again the favorite lines from the movie! One of them being what Master Oogway tells Po that “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift and that is why it is called the present! That helps us look at every day with renewed energy and positivity and inspires us to give our best. 

 When the tides become turbulent through the journey we take turns reminding ourselves that “Anything is possible when you have inner peace” and finally “there is no secret ingredient…for something to be special you have to just believe it is special, so believe in yourself”! 

Now go find your inner peace and say “skadoosh” to things holding you back!

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