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Freeing the Mind

Freeing the Mind

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)

Read more: Deepak Chopra's Tips, Spirit,

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Deepak Chopra

Acknowledged as one of the world's greatest leaders in the field of mind body medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D. continues to transform our understanding of the meaning of health. Chopra is known as a prolific author of over 49 books with 12 best sellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than 35 languages with more than 20 million copies in print.

50 comments

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6:48AM PDT on Aug 31, 2010

Buying the book. Thanks!

5:33PM PDT on Aug 29, 2010

I just love your insight!

4:25AM PDT on Aug 27, 2010

Thanks for the info.

12:18AM PDT on Aug 27, 2010

...ourselves to "think outside" our safe, familiar boxes and make it a priority to do/learn new things like we did when we were young! This isn't quite the same as a zenlike state of pure responsiveness (i.e., mindfulness) to the here-and-now, of "freeing" oneself from the old, "dead" you that existed right up to that moment; I really think trying to look at it like that may create more confusion than it's worth. But from a pragmatic standpoint, deliberately concentrating on doing more things in a novel way DESPITE one's long-developed instincts, habits, self-definitions, etc., will go a long way toward accomplishing that very same goal. Many aspects of the human psyche can be understood in terms of "cognitive dissonance;" Two things whose implications really don't "match up" can't easily coexist in the same brain without one of them being ratcheted up or down to better conform to the other. SO, if one pushes oneself into a bit of discomfort to learn or do something new, to take a risk, etc., then one's old, more restrictive, ideas about oneself will naturally be brought into question; one's world will expand a bit; and it'll most likely turn out positive! (even if the results aren't as hoped). There are so many "side doors" like this in psych that you could write a book about 'em. Anyway, guess I've written enough... the "characters remaining" thing isn't working; let's see if it takes this mess :)

PS -- aaaaand, it didn't! :)

12:11AM PDT on Aug 27, 2010

I too found the article to be somewhat vague and inscrutable. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Chopra's knowledge and experience, but I think here he's combining ideas from several large and complex schools of thought. The brain naturally "keeps track" of everything we experience from birth, thus allowing us to feel secure in varied social scenarios, to develop instincts and "autopilots;" and of course every time a neural transmission occurs, its path deepens and becomes more salient. That's just normal neural development. Also, I think his message fails to acknowledge the MANY vital roles that "context" plays in developing a sense of the "self" vs. "other." Context is actually a definition, i.e., a limitation, that gives us something to bounce off, push against, define ourselves in relation to, develop our senses of comparison, autonomy & priority, & much more. I believe "true freedom" would be psychologically disastrous to the human. Still, we CAN slip over time into self-defeating ruts & frameworks; we can impose our own "glass ceilings" about so many things; many natural capabilities can shrivel, needlessly, from disuse! It's true that as we age, "novel" behaviors fall away to "repetitive" behaviors; and finally we fall, almost robot-like, into entirely familiar, repetitive routines and responses, To fight against this psychological aging process we must consciously deflect some of this energy into new areas and force -- yes, force! -- ourselves to

10:40PM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

Thanks for the article.

9:21PM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

I got a headache trying to figure out what this article was trying to say. It all came across as extra flou-flou and contradictory than usual....

6:17PM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

Thanks Deepak.

4:43PM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

Open your mind until your reason falls out.

4:36PM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

How can one free oneself from decisions? i think thats stupid thing to say. We all have responsibilitys in life.

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