We may have a bad habit
We may have a bad habit – smoking, for example. One cure that I came across that was fairly successful was quite a good one. In this course – it was something that you paid £2 or £3 for – you got a little booklet and an egg timer. They said, “You can have a cigarette, but put the egg timer there and have your cigarette when the sand has run out.” Some people who had done this said, “Well, you think, I might have a cigarette. You put the sand on, but four minutes, it is a hell of a long time, isn’t it?” Finally – that check of four minutes is a very useful thing, and after some weeks of it, they could feel the automatic grip of the habit was beginning to be loosened. Then, the next point – for the final stage – was that you can have a cigarette after you have waited your four minutes, but when you have your cigarette, you mustn’t do anything else, just smoke and enjoy it. Most smokers, they light up and then they get on with something – they are cooking, or they are talking. But now with a cigarette they have got to sit there and just smoke it. Then they reported that halfway through the cigarette, it had become first of all controllable, even just for four minutes, and then it had become conscious. You had to smoke conscientiously, not as an unconscious thing.
Now, I only give this western example of the system of training the mind to bring out the things which we do unconsciously or semi-consciously, to learn to check them. If one’s in the habit of making irritable responses, wait four minutes, then make your irritable response. That can be done. Sometimes there is a good reason for one’s irritable response but, after four minutes, it does get more in proportion. This is one example of the training of the mind, to try to free oneself from these automatic habits and prejudices. Again, mentally, to do the line of light practice used in the central line of the body, and then when the thoughts come, to feel one’s throwing. One of the practices is to feel you are on top of a hill and you have got a lap full of pebbles. It’s not a bad idea to do this physically. Get up early in the morning, drive or walk to the top of a hill and collect some pebbles and sit there comfortably. When a thought comes, throw the pebble and throw the thought. Another thought comes – throw it.
Then an ambition comes and annoyance and anticipation comes at what happened. If this is practised continuously for ten minutes a day, and continued, and kept up, then it is possible to shed some of these ‘dresses’ as they are called – redundant dresses, filthy rags which we always walk about in. Just take them off and be free of them. Afterwards we can put them on again, but we will have been freed for just a little bit. So do the central line of light and throwing the body away, throwing the thoughts away.
Then, if you practise meditation, you can go beyond the mind. By these practices, the mind begins to become objective. Not, “I am like that. Oh, that is me, yes. Oh, no. You can’t expect me to do that. I would never do that.” People will come to you and they will say, “I am absolutely desperate. Tell me what to do.” If you tell them, they will say, “Well, I won’t do that.” or “You can’t expect me to do that.” They’re desperate, eh? Finally to begin to become a little bit separate from these things, and by meditation, intelligence, he will begin to feel the divine intelligence stirring within.
What of the body and the mind? Shankara says, “He lives in the body as a man lives in the house.” I live in the house, but I am not the house. If somebody throws a stone through my window, I’ll jump up, I’ll get it repaired. The house begins to crumble, yes, I get that repaired. Sometimes I put up new curtains. The house is getting older and older, but if it is looked after well, it can be preserved and it can fulfil its function for a very long time. ‘He lives in his body as in a house’. He takes care of it, but he doesn’t feel, “I am the body. I am crumbling. I am sick. I am ill. I am triumphant. I have been humiliated. I am dying.” He doesn’t feel that. The house has been newly painted. The house is crumbling. Not the owner. Even when the house is old, it can be looked after very well. I live in a house that is 120 years old. It is still very effective – and I live in another house that is 73 years old. “The body,” he says, in another example, “…is like a horse”. When we ride a horse, we are fond of the horse and we know it. If the horse stumbles, we feel that; the horse is frightened, too. We immediately react to it, but I don’t feel I am the horse – and, yet, in a sense, I feel a certain unity with it.
I knew a man who, when he was a boy, was on a farm. He was very fond of animals. In those days, they branded sheep and he told me his job was to hold the rear legs of the sheep. They would hold the front legs and brand the sheep which, of course, would give a terrific yell. Then they would let it go and take the next one. He said, “After a few of these, he began to feel a pain in his own body, and he had to stop.” Then the farmer said, “Alright. You stop – but just look at the sheep.” And he saw that after they had been released, they would bleat and cry a few times and then start cropping the grass. Then one would bleat and cry again. But after just four, or five, or six minutes, it would be cropping away, and it would stop crying and it would be going around like the others. When he saw that, he was able to go back and hold the rear legs again. He saw it was just a passing – a severe – hurt, but it was just passing and it didn’t go on in the sheep. Then the pain disappeared from his side.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are
Part 4: A system of training the mind
Part 5: Overcoming pain of body and mind
Part 6: Independence of outer things