What Your Mind Is Doing When No One Is Watching

woman mediating on a rock

Written by: Achala

One should raise oneself by one’s own mind and not allow oneself to fall, for a controlled mind is one’s friend, but an uncontrolled mind is one’s enemy.

Bhagavad Gita, 5.6

'The mind under control is your best friend”, says Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. “But the mind without control is your worst enemy.'

So I thought to myself: let’s try to befriend my mind. To know it better. Even if I fail, I will at least get to know the 'enemy' better.

The mind is a natural wanderer. It constantly roams from place to place through the complex forest of our life’s experiences. Every little sensory trigger, every sensation of pleasure or repulsion, can change its trajectory in a fraction of second. Through spiritual practices, especially Japa, we aim to consciously bring it back to the present moment and remembrance of the Divine. The more often we practice Japa with the breathing, the less time and space the mind has to produce any other thoughts - and the less reactive it becomes in its behaviour. It becomes more centred, conscious, aware and focused. The never-ending inner dialogue gets silenced so something deeper can awake within us.

Well, at least for a while. Because as long as you are not enlightened, the inner dialogue will just continue the moment you lose your focus and attention. And it is okay, as long as you are the observer of that on-going monologue of the mind. The real problem starts when your mind, with its sophisticated mechanisms and skills, actually talks you into some of its 'brilliant ideas' - which, lightly speaking, might be some of the worst decisions that you may make in your life. These are the moments when your mind becomes your worse enemy.

I was observing myself attentively over a longer period of time, trying to see in which exact moments of my life do I have the tendency to let my mind speak its monologue and when I tend to be less attentive and less selective about how I allow it to influence me, letting the Inner Enemy overpower the Inner Friend.

And here is what I found out: the 'darker' side of my mind often becomes much more active, when nobody is watching.

It may seem pretty trivial, but it’s even confirmed by science. When we are in a group of people, something called spotlight effect happens in our brain. When we are with other people, we tend to overestimate the extent to which other people notice our accomplishments and mistakes, and so we tend to control and regulate ourselves more. Guess what? This influences the quality of your inner dialogue, too. Even though nobody can really read your thoughts (well, except a really good psychic maybe), when we are with other people, our brains simply tend to behave better. But when we are alone the full party is on and the monster comes out of its cave.

To my great surprise I have noticed that my mind tends to become most active and negative during so-called 'brainless' daily activities, which involve being alone such as taking a shower, going to the toilet or right before falling asleep. If you watch your own mind very attentively, during those specific moments, you will notice, that these will frequently be moments in which it will try to flood you with some negativity. Suddenly it will remember something very bad that somebody did to you in the past or you will feel unsafe, worrying about the future. It may even create an entire story, with 10 alternate pessimistic endings in the amount of time it takes to have a shower! The mind’s creativity knows no boundaries.

Luckily, you can teach it to have some boundaries.

If you are serious on the spiritual path, it’s a very good idea to start observing your own mind more attentively. Watch it when nobody else is watching. From those moments you can learn a lot about yourself, your dormant tendencies and what you can improve in yourself. After I realised that instead of letting my mind roam aimlessly around, I can just keep repeating my mantra. Since I started to implement chanting mantra in the moments when my mind was most inclined to produce some negativity, I have noticed a huge shift in my mind and my life. Suddenly difficult life situations seem way less dramatic. I am able to do my work with much more efficiency and focus.I am able to find my center and peace much faster, even after some emotional turmoil. That is the power of the mantra and that is the blessing that comes to you, when you take this first step from your side to start getting your mind under control.

Remember, your mind can get out of control only when nobody is watching. But when you become the observer, then there is already somebody observing it. If you can find out these specific moments during your day, when your negative mind becomes most active, target them, and replace the negative inner dialogue with the conscious repetition of the mantra...believe me, even that little victory can change a lot in your life.

It will be a very good first step towards making your enemy become your friend.