How to stop a thought
If I want to write something, “Now, I’ve got this here.” – then the telephone rings. So I’ve got to answer the telephone. “Don’t answer…” We should be able to put the things down, and then just to pick up the one we need. Not trying to hold everything all the time, while I’m doing one thing, but have the ability to put things down. We know how to think, but we don’t know how to stop a thought. There’s a basic yogic exercise, to try to do this. Sit reasonably upright and then feel you’re on a hilltop. You’ve got in your lap a cloth, full of little pebbles. You’re on a hilltop, under the blue sky and you’ve got cloth full of pebbles in your lap – little pebbles. Then a thought comes up. Pick up a pebble and, with that pebble, throw the thought away, so that the thought and the pebble go away down the hill, fall away down the hill. Then another thought comes up – a row I had yesterday. Well, pick it up, chuck it away. Then another thought comes up: “I think I might find a chance to…” Throw it away. Another thought comes up. “How can they say that to me?” Throw it to away. There’s no need to make the gesture; just sit. As the thoughts come up, sitting on the hilltop under the blue sky, mentally throw them away with a pebble.
Now, if you’d like to try for a minute or so. Om. Now, just sit under the blue sky. Now, the thoughts have got less. Om. This is a basic practice in throwing away these quilts and dreams with which we surround our ordinary actions and life. What happens then is that the simplest thing begins to become radiant and it becomes energised. The movements of the scrubbing brush, or of the hand when writing, or of the mind when thinking, become simple and pure, and they flow evenly. Even a very long and taxing intellectual job can become like a flow, as though it’s carried along by itself – and so with a long, physical job. If it doesn’t have all these accretions and all these additions and dreams and frictions, it becomes a flow of itself – a divine flow, it’s sometimes called. All these are words taken from other people’s experience and, as such, the phrases are like counting money in somebody else’s pocket. Now, we have to earn the money for our own pocket, by practising ourselves. This is a basic practice we’ve done, about sitting under the blue sky, so that the thoughts reduce. Then we act and think without a tremendous multitude of whirling thoughts going on around the immediate one.
It doesn’t mean not to plan – but it means to be able to plan, and then put it aside, and not think, “Oh, but then supposing that happens…” We don’t have earthquakes here, do we? But there are some Japanese neurotics; they start thinking, “Oh, I don’t want to go out, there might be an earthquake.” The doctor says, “Well, if you’re in, there’ll be an earthquake just the same, won’t there?” These things are not based on reason at all, but they can be paralysing. In a Japanese monastery, if there’s an earthquake, you have to sit. The monks sit and stay there. You get two or three minor ones before the big one, but the monks never give up. If it falls down, it falls down. It’s very unusual for a building to collapse; as a matter of fact, you’re often safer in. People run into the street and that means the tiles come right down on them and kill them. The cats stay in, and they’re better off, generally. The point is to become free of all the unnecessary thoughts – and one of the slogans is, “Give up the unnecessary thoughts.”
The depths of the mind are not changed by what we do on the surface. We can indeed calm the surface of the mind, but there can still be turmoil below. By habitual practice, the impressions of calm begin to descend too and then they begin to calm down the lower depths of the mind. And because they are based on truth of what we really are, they will always overcome in principle the turmoil which is based on what we are not. If you think of gardening – if you want to change the direction of a young tree you have to apply steady pressure. But if you then let the tree grow [without pressure, the direction won’t be maintained]. On the other hand, if you’re so afraid of breaking it that you won’t apply any pressure at all, well then of course you won’t get the curve you want. So it has to be a steady pressure – not too violent, but steady and continuous. With steady and continuous practice for at least six weeks, the effect is there. It will be noticeable after three months, and they say after three years, a lot of other people will notice it.
© Trevor Leggett
Talks in this series are
Part 1 : Mysticism of the heart 2
Part 2: The vibrations of Shri Rama
Part 5: How to stop a thought