“The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” – Robin Sharma
We may have never really noticed it, or questioned why it’s there, but for
most of us there is a voice in our head that is with us wherever we go. It
keeps a running commentary on our lives, like a sports commentator
describing a baseball match.
This voice describes things for us and tells us what they are – “oh, I’m
hungry”; it wonders about what to do next – “what would I like for dinner?”;
it also fantasizes about what we want, “Oh man, I hope dad has ordered
It also makes judgements about events, things and people, including
They can be positive judgements: “This is pretty nice”; “I’m so cool!”
Or negative judgements: “I’ve always sucked at this”; “She definitely thinks
The mind is always giving its opinion, whatever it may be. And these
opinions determine how we feel about a situation. If we take our opinions as
facts, we start to live as if they were true. Really, our thoughts are just
thoughts; our opinions are never the full truth about a situation. This can
make life tougher for us, even though we’re really just believing a story in
our heads. In truth, she may not think you’re weird!
Most of the time the mind just keeps on chatting away, telling stories,
whether we like it or not, making our minds into busy places. You’d think
that, if we chose to, we could just stop thinking and focus on one thing for
Discuss: Try to just focus on just one thing for one full minute without being
distracted by thoughts. You can listen to a sound, feel your breathing, or
look at an object – just try not to think!
Could you manage to focus without being interrupted by thinking? How did
everyone else do? Did you start making judgements without even realizing?
Almost everyone finds that this is very difficult. Our minds are like
monkeys – grabbing on to this and that and never really resting, not even
for a minute even when we’re trying! If we can’t control our mind, it ends
up being our master.
The way to calm down the mind is to give the restless monkey a job to do –
meditation. Just like we did in Part 1, the job is to focus our attention on
our senses – the eight categories. If we practice doing this, the monkey
becomes our servant who quietly offers us some opinions instead of shouting
them in our ears. With practice, we gain more control of our minds, and can
focus on anything we choose for much longer than just one minute.
We will learn more ways to focus our attention in the next cards and more
reasons why it helps us.