The mind is “wild” because we try to confine and control it. At a deeper level lies complete orderliness. Here, thoughts and impulses flow in harmony with what is right and best for each person.
How 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 a door or breaking a set of shackles. When the ancient Indian sages tried to understand how the mind traps itself, they 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 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). Most people build up an identity on the basis of samskara without knowing that they chose to do this. Unable to escape their toxic memories, people adapt to them, adding one layer after another of impressions. The bottom layers, laid down in childhood, keep sending out their messages, which is why adults often look in the mirror and feel like impulsive, frightened children. The past has not been worked through sufficiently; samskaras rule the psyche through a jumble of old, outworn experiences.
The process began at birth and continues to this day. Instead of fighting it, we all believe we should keep on making choices; as a result, we keep adding new samskaras and reinforcing the old ones. When you find yourself having a fixed reaction, the message has already been sent: It does no good to try to change the message. The voice in your head will die down once you stop making choices. You must free yourself from decisions.
Stop concentrating on the results and look to the cause. Who is this choice-maker inside you? This voice is a relic of the past, the accumulation of old decisions carrying over beyond their time. Right now you are living under the burden of your past self, who is no longer alive. You must protect the thousands of choices that make up this dead self. The choice-maker could live a much freer life. If choices occurred in the present and were fully appreciated right now, there would be nothing left to hold on to, and then the past couldn’t accumulate into a crushing burden.
Choice should be a flow. Your body already suggests that this is the natural way to exist. It is by letting go of each experience that you make room for the next.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004)