02.58 – Training ourselves to avoid mental potholes
When we travel regularly along a pothole-filed road, over time we learn to avoid the potholes and thus save ourselves of unnecessary jolts.
Gita wisdom urges us to adopt a similar approach to the potholes that we encounter in our mental journeys. These mental potholes refer to the stimuli that jolt us mentally in our daily routine. For example, some billboards along our daily pathway may incite lust or greed within us, thereby disrupting our mental balance. By planning and practice we can train ourselves to avoid these mental potholes and thereby save ourselves of unnecessary mental jolts.
Avoiding physical potholes comes naturally to us, but avoiding mental potholes requires conscious training. Why? Because we need to overcome three default attitudes that work against us.
- Inattention: Though we usually notice what causes us physical comfort and discomfort, we frequently fail to notice what causes us mental comfort and discomfort. If we wish to advance spiritually, we need to observe our mental state attentively.
- Illusion: Physical potholes are obviously unpleasant, but mental potholes seem deceptively pleasant; they titillate us. To see through this deception, we need to remind ourselves that the titillation is only momentary and is followed by a much longer period of agitation.
- Impotence: As we generally can’t stop the contemporary culture from blatantly exhibiting provocative images, we tend to feel powerless while dealing with them. But we are not powerless. Though we may not have the power to remove physical potholes, we do have the power to avoid them. Similarly, we do have the power to avoid mental potholes by learning to expertly navigate along our mental way.
The Bhagavad-gita urges us to train ourselves in this expertise when it recommends (2.58) that we avoid unnecessary contact of our senses with the sense objects.