Do you love your mind? I’ve never met anyone who did. The mind is the hardest part of ourselves to love because we feel trapped inside it–not all the time but in those moments when trouble breaks in. Fear has a way of roaming the mind at will. Depression darkens the mind; anger makes it erupt in uncontrollable turmoil.
Ancient cultures tend to echo the notion that the mind is restless and unreliable. Metaphors won’t get you to a place where you can love the mind; you have to find the actual experience of peace and calmness on your own.
The secret for doing that is to free the mind. When it is free, the mind settles down. It gives up its restlessness and becomes a channel for peace. How, then can you set your mind free? You need to understand how it became trapped in the first place. Freedom isn’t a condition you can simply step into by unlocking the door or breaking a set of shackles. The mind is its own shackle.
When they tried to understand how the mind traps itself, the ancient Indian sages devised the key concept of samskara (from two Sanskrit word roots that mean ‘to flow together’). A samskara is a groove in the mind that makes thoughts flow in the same direction.
Buddhist psychology makes sophisticated use of the concept by speaking of samskaras as imprints in the mind that have a life of their own. Your personal samskaras, built up from memories of the past, force you to react in the same limited way over and over, robbing you of free choice (i.e., choosing as if for the first time).
Samskaras are not silent. These deep impressions in the mind have a voice; we hear their repeated messages as words in our heads. Is it possible to figure out which voices are true and which are false? This is an important question because it isn’t possible to think without hearing some words in your head.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).