Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru, answers a question on how to control your thoughts during meditation. He banishes several myths about controlling your thoughts and explores how we can take the mind from being a compulsive process to an entirely conscious process.
Question: Namaskaram. During the practice of kriyas, there is always this challenge of thoughts entering my mind. I’m trying hard to keep them away and focus on the kriya, but this doesn’t really work. How to control your thoughts during meditation or kriyas?
Sadhguru: You are focusing hard and trying to banish the thoughts, and they are not going away. This is the nature of the mind, but it looks like you are very prejudiced against your mind. When you are doing your kriya or your meditation, you don’t mind if your kidneys or your lungs are functioning or if your heart is beating. You don’t mind all the other processes in the body – only your brain should not function! The notion that if you do something spiritual, your brain should stop working is simply wrong.
Your thoughts are just the smells – either fragrance or stink – of the stuff that you carry within you. Nothing new arises. If you don’t let the stuff that you have gathered go into your brain, your brain will work in phenomenal ways. It can do things that you have not imagined possible. But it is full of your own rubbish right now – that is the struggle; that is why you want it to stop. Instead of the brain being the crown of your life, it has become the garbage bin of your life. Physically, it is the crown. In the symbolism of yoga, Sahasrar is a lotus with one thousand petals – “one thousand” not as a literal number, but as something innumerable. If your brain was rooted in the existential process, innumerable possibilities would open up. But right now, your brain is only rooted in the mental process.
Now you may say, “Sadhguru, that’s exactly what I am saying – how to control thoughts?” No, that is not what you are saying. You don’t want your thoughts to interfere with your illusory idea of enlightenment. Illusory because enlightenment is not something that you cause. You don’t cause light, but you see light. When the sun rises in the morning, you do not cause the light, but you are able to see it if your eyes are open. If you cause light – let’s say with a torch or by any other means – you always have to keep it up, and there will always be the fear that it will go out.
The difference between education and enlightenment is just this – you can educate yourself with 1, 10, or 1000 books, but still you will run out of material at some point. Enlightenment means you did not educate yourself with books – you are simply there; it is an endless process. Is there something particular that an enlightened person knows that you do not know? No. Is there something particular that an enlightened person does not know? No. I am not playing with words. This is the nature of existence.
An Inefficient Mind
What is happening in your liver and kidneys is a lot more complex than the thoughts that you generate. If the activity of your organs does not disturb you, why do your thoughts disturb you? Because you think you are your thoughts. When you think, you don’t see it as “my thoughts” – you say, “I think so.” Because you are deeply identified with your thought process, it is bothering you. You are not identified with your kidneys unless you have a kidney problem. If they function normally, most people do not even feel if they have kidneys or not. Kidneys are a device – they are functioning so efficiently we can forget about them.
You are always conscious of that which does not function efficiently. You know, I am making a statement about your brain. If it was functioning smoothly, you would not notice your brain, like you do not notice your kidneys or liver. If you were not identified with it, you would not notice it. If you are identified with it, it is a big deal. You are not your thought. You are identified with something that you are not. Once you are identified with something that you are not, you cannot stop the mental process – it will just go on endlessly. It is like when you have eaten bad food, gas will develop. You cannot stop it with a wine cork. You just have to stop eating bad food.
The bad food for you is right now, you believe yourself to be things that you are not. The moment you identify yourself with your body, your thoughts, your emotions, and many other things around you, the thought process will be endless. People think that is how the mind is. That is not how mind is, or rather, that it is not how it is supposed to be. If you constantly had a stomach ache, you would think that is how the stomach is.
The Human Possibility
The brain is much more sensitive than other organs. All other organs have specific functions, but the brain has a few specific functions, and the rest is left open. This is the problem of being human. Any other creature has specific goals, nothing more. They must eat well, grow well, reproduce well, and die one day – everything is set. Only a human being is wondering, “Why am I here? What is the nature of my life? Where do I come from? Where do I go?” All these questions only come up when you are human. The difference between a human being and any other creature is that in human beings, the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain have flowered.
You complain about a new possibility that has arisen within you, a possibility that an ape, a monkey, or any other creature does not have. Do not treat a possibility as a problem. It is not a problem – it is a possibility that you can sit here and think of something that is 1000 miles away, 1000 years ago, 1000 years later, or whatever else. It has become a problem for a lot of people because they have never looked at the user manual.
First stop giving the brain bad food – feed it with Truth, not untruth. We are in the hands of Truth. We don’t have Truth in our hands. We have a complex bunch of lies in our hands. If you keep down all the things that you believe, all the things that you have made up, you will see, if you sit here, your mind could be simply empty. If it is empty, what is the use? The use is it can reflect the whole cosmos. Otherwise, it is quite comic. This is the choice – you can make your mind into a comical place or a cosmic space. For it to become a cosmic space, you must keep all the lies down – then Truth will flourish by its own nature. The absence of falsehood is Truth.
Only a fool will talk about what Truth is. One who knows will only talk around it, because you cannot talk about it. You can only define and describe that which has some kind of substance, that which has measurable parameters, or boundaries. If something has no boundaries and no parameters, you cannot talk about it. The whole work is about clearing the mess you have created, not about establishing Truth. There is no need to establish Truth. It is in the lap of Truth that all of us exist.
I will not ask you to confess what thoughts you are getting while doing your kriya. Do not be concerned about your thoughts. Above all, do not try to stop them. Let them happen like the activity of your kidneys is happening. Not everything in your kidneys is clean. Not everything in your brain is clean either – what is your problem?
Good Thoughts and Bad Thoughts
Do not discriminate between good and bad thoughts. There are no good and bad thoughts – there are just thoughts. Your thoughts depend upon what kind of garbage you have – that kind of smell will emanate. Today’s smell depends on yesterday’s garbage. It depends on what you threw into the bin. If you watched a movie yesterday or something else happened, today, that will come back to you again. Do not judge your thoughts – it is just rubbish. First of all, they are not even real. A thought means that it is not real. The largest part of who you are is unconscious right now. You are making things up all the time. If you want to know the nature of creation and the Creator, it is important that you do not make things up, which is what you are trying to do right now. Trying to make things up is a hopeless method.
If you try to maintain a continuous stream of thoughts while doing your kriya, suddenly, they will not come. Suddenly, you will get constipated in the head. Do not bother about your thoughts or about how to control your thoughts. Depending upon what is there inside today, thoughts will flow. There is no significance or consequence to this. You just need to do the kriya – do not do the thoughts. Whether you try to remove them or to have continuous thoughts or 108 sacred thoughts during meditation, you are still trying to do the thoughts. The kidneys will do their own thing; the liver will do its own thing; the brain will do its own thing; you do the kriya – that is all.
Editor’s Note: Sadhguru offers Isha Kriya, a free, online guided meditation that helps bring health and wellbeing. Daily practice of this simple yet effective 12-minute process can transform one’s life.
Editor’s Note: Subscribe to the official Sadhguru YouTube channel to watch new videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.