When the new year arrives, it’s common to think about making new year’s resolutions. In this issue we discuss why it is often difficult to follow through on the resolutions we make.
May you always think of Krsna.
New Year’s Resolutions
When the new year arrives we might be thinking about making new year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, many of us haven’t followed through on the resolutions we made last year. The reality is that it’s not always easy to do what’s right. Have you ever said to yourself, “I know I should do this, but I don’t?” When I say that to myself I believe I have a serious and difficult obstacle that I am dealing with and that it’s somewhat normal to not do what I know I should do. But when I hear someone else say this to me, it almost sounds like a crazy person talking. I often think, “What’s wrong with him? Is he insane?” Doesn’t he care about himself? Why is he doing things to harm himself?”
I find it telling that sastra say these things about the mind:
The mind can be your worst enemy
- You can’t trust your mind
- Neglect your mind
Are We Really Crazy?
It almost sounds like the kind of instructions you’d give to patients of a mental institution. Are we really crazy?
Of course, Krsna says the mind can also be our friend. When the mind is our friend we obviously wouldn’t want to neglect it or not trust it. So part of our sadhana is to pacify this potential enemy. It is a bit like taming a wild animal. So how do we do that?
Beat the rascal mind.
“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that in the morning our first business should be to beat the mind with shoes a hundred times. And before going to bed, to beat the mind a hundred times with a broomstick. In this way one’s mind can be kept under control. An uncontrolled mind and an unchaste wife are the same. An unchaste wife can kill her husband at any time, and an uncontrolled mind, followed by lust, anger, greed, madness, envy and illusion, can certainly kill the yogi. When the yogi is controlled by the mind, he falls down into the material condition. One should be very careful of the mind, just as a husband should be careful of an unchaste wife.” (SB 5.6.4 purport)
That Little Voice in Your Head
If you want to make some new year’s resolutions, you might have to deal with a little voice in your head that is telling you, “Yeah, you tried to make some resolutions before and you couldn’t follow them. Don’t waste your time this year. You know you can’t do it. You know you can’t change. You know you don’t have the will power.” And then we think, “You know, you’ve got a point there. I guess it is just better to continue doing what I am doing and hope that someday things will get better.”
If you’ve ever thought like this, you’ve been sold a bag of tricks by the enemy. And the result is you will feel miserable and powerless.
“One who cannot control his mind lives always with the greatest enemy, and thus his life and its mission are spoiled.” (BG purport 6.6)
Wherever we go our minds go with us. So wouldn’t it be nicer to bring a friend wherever we go rather than an enemy.
“Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.” (BG 5.23)
Here is the paradox. The mind tells us we will be happy by letting it run free, and Krsna tells us we will be happy by tolerating the demands of the mind and senses. Krsna’s advice seems almost counter-intuitive. How could refraining from doing what I want make me happy?
That’s because it is not what you want. Much of what we think we want is just conditioning. For example, how could someone really want a cigarette since that very cigarette is going to kill him. Advertisements associate cigarettes with pleasure, sex, being cool, etc. And for women, they associate smoking with independence (“you’ve come along way baby”). Once the sub-conscious mind associates pleasure with smoking, a person will think smoking is cool, smoking is enjoyable, smoking is sexy. He won’t think that smoking is death.
Sell Your Mind on Your Ideas
Society and the mass media have programmed us to associate pleasure with all kinds of things that can’t actually make us happy. So when we listen to the mind we are often not listening to what we want but are listening to what we have been programmed to want, what we have been told will make us happy. And what makes it so difficult for us is that we don’t always recognize this. We naturally think our mind must be working for us – that it must be looking out for our self-interest. We don’t naturally relate to our mind as the enemy it often is.
It’s clear that the mind can sell us on things we don’t need or want. So it boils down to this; either you sell your mind on your ideas, on what you want, or it will sell you on its agenda. Selling is always going on.
Who is going to win this year when it comes time to follow through on the changes you want to make: you or your mind? Who is going to make the sell?
Make your new year’s resolution based on what you really want. Then sell your mind on it. The proof that you made the sell is that you will do it.