What does Improvement mean?
Improvement is a broad word and it can represent the entire spectrum across the various life processes. Improvement necessarily means increasing the pitch of life as days go by and being able to live to our deepest and fullest capacity in all walks of life. This is my personal interpretation of all-round improvement. Well, there is only one area that one needs to work upon so that with the energy that becomes available with the improvement in this one area, one can improve across all areas of life or shall we say, become conscious and capable of improvement in the first place. This area of life, is the very fountainhead from which life spurts out, it is indeed the spirit. One need not work on the spirit, because it is perfect, complete and the very source of exuberance. If that is the case, what are we supposed to work upon in relation to the spirit? We shall discuss this point in some detail in the current topic.
Scope of manifesting life among Species
All life, whether it is a newborn chicken that breaks out from the egg or a new born cub or a baby born out of the womb of a woman, is born almost perfectly. With perfection I mean, in the nature of life that is invested in each creature. One may be born deformed physically or may have other problems. But still, life, consciousness that flows, animating the living entities is perfect and not just near-perfect. The problem begins with the human species to the exclusion of all other species. All other species have a particular way in which the growth takes place, as the rule is set by Nature. You see that the puppy or the new-born colt starts walking within a few hours. Within a few days, the new-born monkey has learnt the art of jumping across trees. The life of the other species is well-scripted or well-dictated. However human babies are born in the most helpless condition. The human baby only knows to cry and has to be attended well, otherwise the possibility of the baby not surviving becomes relatively high. The possibilities of life are immense and maximum in a human baby compared to other species, which, as opposed to humans have a very limited but well-scripted natural growth. Here is where the problem begins for human babies. The human baby has almost infinite directions for expressions, through which life can manifest, profit and expand. It is exposed to all sorts of conditioning. It is dependent on the character, nature, behavior and attitudes of parents. It is dependent on the time, place and circumstances that it is going to be exposed to. It depends on the associates that it is going to mix around with and a million other things. That which was a big possibility has become heavily curtailed and stunted because all these factors limit human expression.
Road Blocks in Spiritual expression
As the human entity starts with its growth process, the influences of the surroundings and the ideologies that it is exposed to, heavily conditions and restricts the growth process. One may call it cultural influence or influence of society. It may also be tagged as, influence of the past. I say this because the baby represents the future no doubt, but it is born in an environment already conditioned by the past. Most times these influences are inevitable. It becomes important for a progressive mind to realize this. When much of influence has already occurred and the mind has become conditioned in such a way that one has developed too many opinions and biases, growth in the mental and spiritual planes becomes heavily stunted or curtailed. Only people who are fortunate to have realized this stunting or restriction can have the will or the desire to overthrow and defeat many of the restrictions that one has internally developed during the course of one’s own growing-up process.
Whimsical freedom is not true freedom
Growing up does not mean that one starts behaving in accordance with the whims and fancies of the monkey mind. If you are brought up in a heavily restricted environment where you have not been allowed to interact freely with the opposite sex, does not mean that in the name of freedom you should be doing exactly that. This sort of freedom is in fact an open invitation to doom. It becomes necessary to understand the true meaning of freeing up oneself rather than to define your own self-conceived standards of freedom, the way you want. Then this becomes another sort of self-imposed restriction which, to you alone, appears as freedom. Freedom does not typically mean free to do what you want. Instead it is to do and commit oneself to those things that will free you up from the inside. All the compulsions of your inner habit patterns should be relieved so that one can experience true relaxation, true contentment. This contentment cannot be artificially experienced or induced. True contentment is born out of the Self, when the spirit is experienced in its totality.
Improvement through unblocking the spirit
All our views and opinions about the world, relatives, friends, enemies and other fellow-beings are more or less distorted. It is not that this distortion is introduced within us. It is generally the nature of our maturing and growing up process. Our spirit and our energy levels are managed and used up to the level to which pure consciousness or the expression of pure spirit is blocked. The way our mind works, manipulates and cheats us is the very thing that is blocking the life-process and introducing us to situations which stunts creativity and pure expression. It is our mind that creates fears and insecurities and gets us busy with building security and so, defines a limited kind of freedom that is taking the human entity into a whirlpool of never ending woes. Unless one experiences for oneself this trick of the mind, the unblocking of the spirit can never begin. Unblocking the spirit is the only way through which all improvement occurs. Once this process starts within oneself, every other correction process shall happen on its own and there will never be a need to start a different improvement process in any other area of life.
Improvement begins when the mind is separated
Today, we are involved with the mind. We cannot see ourselves different from the mind. We think, we feel and we experience. Most people, even today believe that this feeling, emotion and thought patterns is the real “them”. This is where the main problem lies. When we do not wake up early, we say that we are habituated to it and that it is our mistake. We do not see the discrepancies of the mind and the conditioning process as different from us. We bucket all complexities of the mind as ourselves. This is a huge blunder. When we are late for a function, we say “Sorry, I am late.” Well, the statement is true for practical purposes and can be regarded as a fact and yet it is not a statement of Truth. Our habits and our actions which is driven by the mind and the body have become so much integrated with us that we feel it is the doing of “ME” the spirit. This is a false notion. To rid ourselves of our inappropriate habits is not possible in this condition. This is why we make resolutions for improvement but the very next day we break it without any feeling of guilt. Feeling guilty will anyway be of no help, nevertheless.
Being Aware of the Mind before Any Improvement Step.
In fact, no improvement is actually required. Our goal is to create a gap between ourselves and the mind. We have to be able to see what drives us into doing things, how we get controlled and what is happening in our thoughts. What is it that is motivating us? What is it that is forcing us? Is it the greed for profit or is it something else. This has to be looked at. It is important that we develop the single habit of watchfulness. When we develop watchfulness, the mind becomes the object that is audited or watched. By watching the mental dialogue through some useful practices, the mind starts calming down and it moves away from our Self. One has to understand that we are not seeing any improvement in ourselves because today the mind is not being watched. The funny thing is that, the more you become capable in watching the mind, the faster it shall withdraw and stop its mischief. The Spirit is perfect. When the mind withdraws, naturally the life-energies and the power of the spirit surges into action. Then nothing can stop the spirit and slowly one shall inch towards great improvement in all walks of life, automatically.
How can one watch the mind?
There are two fundamental processes that one can introduce in one’s life so that one stops identifying with the mind. They are chanting the Holy Names of God and Meditating on breath. Personally I have derived tremendous benefits through both these processes. Improvement starts happening automatically in all spheres of life when one starts following these practices with great intent, the intent of being able to watch the mind at will. The end of the process shall happen when the mind gets separated, when it finally withdraws completely after knowing well that you are now addicted to this self-reformation practice. The other way to interpret this statement is that one never loses awareness in thought, word and deed. One shall never think, speak or do anything without a watchful eye. The intention is to root out the automatic unconscious ways of going through life as a dead ritual. When the mind gets permanently separated from the self, one would have, for certain achieved this goal of Self-improvement in all walks of life with almost no effort. I shall discuss Meditation and Chanting some other time.