Can you imagine being put in the driving seat of a car for the first time and being expected to get it from A to B safely? You don't know how the brakes work, or the gears, and you don't have the spacial awareness yet to steer it through gaps without bumping into passing objects.
That's what happens to us with our minds. Our mind is the tool we use for reasoning, thinking, and making decisions as we pass through life, but nobody teaches us how to use it. We don't know how to keep it safe, or how to stop it becoming overloaded and suffering from stress or anxiety. Most of us are completely unaware of how to use our minds as a platform to reach to higher understandings, to cultivate inner awareness and see the bigger picture, the spiritual reality of our life and the lives of those around us.
Levels of Understanding
Ayurveda teaches us that not only are we operating through the mind, but that there are different levels within our mind, and that by developing a basic understanding of them we can learn how to protect ourselves from picking up impressions that will bother us in our dreams and quiet moments or even in our day to day lives when we suddenly feel overwhelmed with anxiety.
I've worked with hundreds of people over the last ten years who've suffered with panic attacks or acute anxiety and they tell me how they can be walking down the road one minute feeling fine, and the next minute they feel as though their world is falling apart that they're going to faint, collapse or even die, where their mind has thrown such a number on them that they just don't know what to do - how to feel safe, or how to feel in control.
Garbage in Stress and Anxiety Out
Ayurveda offers great council on how to keep our minds protected, healthy and running smoothly. One of my teachers Dr David Frawley has written a great book called 'Ayurveda and the Mind - The Healing of Consciousness' and in that book he uses the example of our outer mind being like a doorway through which impressions from our senses from the world around us enter into our inner consciousness. He explains that whatever we're taking in through our eyes our ears our sense of touch, taste and smell, all the information we're gathering from the world outside enters into our inner consciousness through a doorway, and that doorway has a doorman. That doorman is our intelligence. Our intelligence decides which impressions are allowed in, and once those impressions - the words we hear, the things we watch, the things we see, the things we touch, taste and smell - are allowed in by the doorman into our inner consciousness they will stick in our minds and take root.
Ayurveda describes these impressions as seeds that grow and develop within our internal awareness and eventually come to fruition and cause us to act - everything we take in eventually manifests as an action.
If our doorman isn't discriminating between what we want to let into our minds and what we don't, then we leave ourselves open for anything to get it in. You can tell what you've let in because you'll dream about it and find yourself pondering on it in your waking state. If you don't like your dreams and your background thoughts, it's time to increase security.
Protect Your Mind with Healthy Choices
The greatest protection our mind has is to use good discrimination. We want a doorman that discriminates who is allowed in and who isn't. We don't want someone half asleep on the job who will let anyone or anything into our awareness where it can wreak havoc.
The first step in having a good doorman is to use our intelligence to determine what we're allowing our senses to focus on in the first place. If we want to experience peace inside we need to learn to exercise discrimination outside and that means we need to make good choices in what we're watching, what we're seeing around us, what we're hearing, what we're saying and what we're tasting and eating.
If we want to experience peace, we have to act peacefully in our lives. A simple diet based in grains, fruits and vegetables is a peaceful diet, no one got harmed for your meal. Simple entertainment of reading uplifting or spiritual literature. Having heartfelt connections with your friends, family, children. Watching and appreciating nature is more peaceful to your mind then seeking entertainment in movies and television. And the same with what you hear - focus on the sounds of nature, hear uplifting conversation, enlivening music - soothing music is better for your mind than listening to heavy music or sounds of entertainment which are jarring to you nervous system.
Our doorman can only protect us to the degree that we've trained him to work. If our reasoning and choices aren't good and clear then our doorman will not act in our best interests. The deeper area of our mind is sensitive and vulnerable, it's easily effected and easily disturbed. So it's really important to discriminate what we let into our inner consciousness and to always try and make choices that are peaceful and supportive of having a calm, positive healthy mind.