But first, if you’re up for it (and can do it safely!), close your eyes. We’re going to take a little trip.
Hop in a time machine and transport yourself back to ancient India.
Get out of that time machine and hop on an elephant. And ride it into a market.
You better hope your elephant had a good trainer because, if not, you might be in for some trouble as your elephant uses its trunk to grab everything in sight!!
Ancient Indian sages tell us that our minds are like those elephant trunks.
Modern sages echo that wisdom. Here’s how Stephen Cope puts it in his great book The Great Work of Your Life: “‘But the wise elephant trainer,’ said Rambha, ‘will give the elephant a stick of bamboo to hold in his trunk. The elephant likes this. He holds it fast. And as soon as the elephant wraps his trunk around the bamboo, the trunk begins to settle. Now the elephant strides through the market like a prince: calm, collected, focused, serene. Bananas and coconuts no longer distract.’”
Get this: Rambha was the woman who helped take care of Gandhi when he was a child.
Gandhi was a terrified little guy and Rambha taught him how to control his mind. Just as an untrained elephant will go nuts knocking everything over when he visits the market, so, too, will our untrained minds grasp and knock things over in our lives.
As Rambha advised Gandhi, the wise elephant trainer gives the elephant a stick of bamboo. The wise human training his mind gives himself something to focus on as well.
In Gandhi’s case, that was a mantra: Rama, Rama, Rama. (One of the names of God in the Hindu tradition.)
As Stephen tells us: “When done systematically, mantra has a powerful effect on the brain. It gathers and focuses the energy of the mind. It teaches the mind to focus on one point, and it cultivates a steadiness that over time becomes an unshakable evenness of temper.”
How’s your elephant-mind?
Shall we give it a stick of mantra-bamboo?