Q: What should we do when the mind wanders off and/or multitasks during japa?
“Patiently, little by little, a man must free himself from all mental distractions, with the aid of the intelligent will.… No matter where the restless and the unquiet mind wanders, it must be drawn back and made to submit to the Atman only” (Bhagavad Gita 6:25-26).
It has been the habit of the mind for many thousands of pre-human and human incarnations to wander about indiscriminately. But it is just a habit. By following Krishna’s advice and simply bringing it back over and over, eventually it gets the idea. Soham is a direct manifestation of the Self, and by its repetition in meditation and outside meditation it will begin to reflect the Soham bhava and function as it should in subordination to the Self. This does not happen overnight! But it does happen, as countless Soham yogis have discovered.
Relaxation in mind and will is the secret of genuine concentration. Do not become impatient or discouraged. After all, you are seeking to tame a wild thing that has hardly known any attempt to internalize it. But it is the essential nature of the mind to eventually become focussed on Soham. And at all times, concentrated mind or not, Soham is of very real effect and value.
Think of how patient we are in training a pet animal. It is just about the same. It is essentially a matter of “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), a matter of First Things First. (Easy to say.) The yogi must learn (and it is a matter of learning) to have two mental states: one when the japa of Soham is going on during our usual daily routine and we are also aware of sensory and mental impressions or waves, and the other when the japa of Soham is there with no other thought.
At first this second state is only for a short while, but with persistent practice it can become steady. And in time even outside meditation we can become primarily aware of Soham and secondarily aware of other elements. It is a matter of time and persistence.
It is crucial to realize that we are not pushing away or banishing thoughts–that would be focusing on them. We ignore them and give first place to Soham and in time they go away, and even if they make a few brief appearances later we give all our attention to Soham.
Diet and the mind
It is necessary, though, to understand that the mind is a field of magnetic energies, and the character of the energies is most important. Animals have restless minds, and if we eat their flesh we also take their mental energies into our minds which will then behave like them. There is no other possibility. You truly cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
So diet is very important, since our minds consist of the subtle energies of the food we eat. Which is also why eating junk food will produce a junk mind, or eating worthless food a worthless mind. Being a vegetarian is essential, but not enough. Our food must nourish our mind. The seventeenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita discusses this.
For the facts about diet, I recommend Diet For a New America by John Robbins, What’s Wrong With Eating Meat? by Vistara Parham, the books of Dr. Neal Barnard, particularly Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life, and T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study.
The best researched and most informative books on nutrition and health are Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not To Die and How Not To Diet. (This second book is not just about weight loss and contains tremendously valuable information on diet in general.) Completing the picture, and very necessary, is the information given by Dr. John A. McDougall in The Starch Solution. For vegan recipes the cookbooks of Dr. McDougall and Robin Robertson are very good.
More on “when the mind wanders”:
- Straightening Out the Mind–An Extract from the Dhammapada
- Calming the Storm–Insights from the Bhagavad Gita
- Points For Successful Meditation