Mental Muscle

Govardhana is enchanting… and simultaneously educational. At every turn there is a lesson to learn. While pacing the peaceful perimeter path yesterday, a street vendor suddenly announced: “Monkey seva! Monkey seva!” It was an invitation to feed the mischief-making monkeys that had congregated. “Monkey seva is my thing” I thought, “I’ve been feeding this monkey-like mind for lifetimes!” Some nuts for our furry friends today, but the inner monkey has to diet. Walking a little further we encountered an elderly ascetic performing ‘dandavat parikrama.’ After diligently bowing prostrate 108 times in the same spot, he moves forward the length of his body, and repeats the process… with a vow to circumambulate the entire hill in that way. It’s a vow that may take ten years to complete. What focus! What dedication and determination! I don’t think my monkey-like mind would cooperate with that one.

I marvelled at the sadhu’s mental muscle. Most times we can’t make up our mind. Even when we do, we keep changing our mind. When there are challenges, we lose our mind. The lesson is loud and clear: “mind your mind!” We remembered the saints of Vrindavana, who made vows which were like lines on a stone. Once they decided, they followed through, rain or shine, hell or high water. Whether life directions, spiritual commitments, or day-to-day judgements, how nice if we could just make a call, accept the outcomes, have the fixity of mind to stick with it, and just get on with life. I shudder to think how much time, energy and mental space we waste in constant oscillation, undecided and unsure, neither here nor there, going around in circles. Imagine we channelled all of that priceless resource in a progressive direction.

But let’s face it, decisions are hard to make – after all, we have to live with them, and that’s scary. True, but if we don’t make a call, and instead decide to ‘sit on the fence,’ then the winds of life will inevitably appear and forcibly blow us one way or the other! Consciously decide, or unconsciously accept. It’s up to us. But how do we know we are making a good decision? What is the right decision? Well, weigh it up, view it from all angles, and seek advice from friends. Introspect, make a prayer, and try to connect with the voice within. After all is said and done, you just have to make a call. Ultimately, the ‘right’ decision is the one which is based on sober consideration, trusted consultation, and true sincerity of heart. When we follow that formula, divine back up will always be there. We can’t lose.

When I saw that sadhu I prayed for some mental muscle – decisiveness, confidence and fixity of mind. We have to keep moving forward, and can’t let the opportunities of life pass us by as we stall in the trench of procrastination, fear and indecision. We can’t constantly be scared about what could go wrong, but need to start getting excited about what could go right. The quality of our decisiveness, decides the quality of our life.

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