Escaping the Conflict and Battle of Thoughts in the Mind

Through the process of affinity and filtration of thoughts, when we remain in the plane of the mind, we experience the struggle and resistance of competing thoughts that appear to be in many cases chaotic in nature. Fighting with these thoughts, struggling, suppressing, all turn out to be counter-productive strategies, as they only intensify the conflict in the mind. There are two basic methods proposed by the Mother to shift the attention away from these thoughts. One of these is to rise above to a higher plane of mental consciousness, or beyond that, to the spiritual consciousness. The other is to focus the mind on some concentrated form of work or outward-oriented attention. In either case, when the focus shifts away from the level that receives and attends to these thoughts, they lose their force, at least temporarily, while the attention goes elsewhere, or, more permanently, as one makes the shift of consciousness to the higher spiritual realms and takes the standpoint of the witness from that level.

The Mother notes: “If you know how to rise to a higher level, simply into a region of the speculative mind which is not quite the ordinary physical mind, you can see all this play and all this struggle, all this conflict, all these contradictions as a curiosity which does not touch or affect you. If you rise a step higher still and see the goal towards which you want to go, you will gradually come to discern between ideas favourable to your progress which you will keep, and ideas opposed to this progress which harm and impair it; and from above you will have the power to set them aside, calmly, without being otherwise affected by them. But if you remain there, at that level in the midst of that confusion and conflict, well, you risk getting a headache!”

“The best thing to do is to occupy yourself with something practical which will compel you to concentrate specially: studies, work or some physical occupation for the body which demands attention — anything at all that forces you to concentrate on what you are doing and no longer be a prey to these ramblings. But if you have the misfortune to remain there and look at them, then surely, as I said, you will get a headache. For it is a problem which must be resolved either by a descent into practical life and a concentration on some practical effort or else by rising above and looking from above at all this chaos so as to be able to bring some order into it and set it right. … But one must never remain on the same plane, it is a plane which is no good either for physical or moral health.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Unruly and Perturbing Thoughts, pp. 35-43

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