On distraction of mind

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Question: Acharya ji, I am unable to concentrate on anything. For e.g., I get easily distracted while studying my Maths book, and get attracted to playing online games.

What should I do then?

Acharya Prashant: You see, two types of things attract us.

One – where the attraction is tremendous. And the attraction is so tremendous, that you get totally lost in the thing that attracts you, and you are left with no space, or desire to enquire further.

Now something really spectacular, something really eye-catching, something really interesting, is attracting you. This attraction becomes so dominant on us, that we do not even want to ask that what that thing is, and why this thing is attracting us. And whether that thing holds any importance in our lives.

What the eyes see, becomes so heavy, that it totally occupies the mind. And the mind is then not free at all, to ask any questions. You could even say that we become dumb. We become dumb. But it’s a very pleasurable dumbness, because we are, as we say, enjoying that state of being attracted.

The one who is getting attracted, is getting totally lost in the thing, that is attracting him. And because he is totally, completely lost, therefore nothing is left of him, to make an inquiry, to ask a question.

What question?

“Why is this thing is attracting me?”

“Is it really important for me?”

“What would this give me, after the initial period of attraction?”

“Would I be left with anything substantial, for five minutes, or let’s say five months?”

“There would be a lot of pleasure, but what after these five minutes? What after these five minutes, and what was before these five minutes? What really happened, that this thing became so tremendous on me?”

These are important questions, but we are left with no space to ask these questions. Because the thing, the attractive thing, or thought, totally overpowers us. It overpowers us, it controls us. It has taken us in it’s arrest.

Now, we are left with no capacity to ask an intelligent question.

These are the first kind of things that we come across – attractive things. Attractive things, where the possibility of asking question, or inquiring, is impeded.

And, in contrast, there are other kinds of things, that do not look attractive on the surface at all. The moment you look at them, the moment you hear of them, the moment you think of them, no interest arises within. In fact, a disinterest may arise.

You may say, “O! What is there in it?” Or you probably don’t say anything, and just want to ignore that object. You would say, “It’s not exciting.” And now, what happens in this case? Please see.

It’s a step-by-step thing. It’s a scientific thing. Because you have already said that this thing does not interest me, therefore you are left with no possibility of asking a question. The matter has been closed, so why ask a question?

In the first case, why was no question asked? Because the thing appeared so attractive, that you were left with no time, space, or desire, to ask the question.

You didn’t ask, “What this thing really is?”

“It appears nice and beautiful, but what is it really, and what would it give me?”

“Am I being intelligent, by getting attracted towards it? Probably I am. Then I will allow myself to be attracted even more. But if I am not being intelligent by moving towards this thing, why should I hurt myself?”

That was the first case. In this case, again there is no inquiry. In the second case, why there is no inquiry? Because the thing appears so unattractive, that you say, “Oh! C’mon. Move on. I don’t want to look at it. It’s not exciting, I don’t like it. There is nothing in it. It does not arouse me, so I will not ask any question.”

Here again if you could ask, “What is in it for me?,” then the picture would change. You say that when you are with your Maths book, then you do not feel any urge or attraction. Then do something else. What is it that you must do?

Ask yourself, “In the first place, why am I with this Maths book? Why am I holding it at all? Is there a reason? What is the importance of this book?”

If this book really has some importance, then you will find that you are compelled to read. And if it has no importance, then you will throw away the book. Let’s see whether the book has some importance? All that you need to do is, ask a sincere question. Whether it’s the Maths book, or some online game, that is attracting you. Ask the same question.

“What is in it for me? What will I really get from this?”

“After the five minutes, or fifty minutes of interest, or disinterest, what would I be left with?”

Ask, “Is it so that I am being cheated? Is it so that somebody is making a fool of me, and exploiting me by giving me, a little dose of excitement?”

There answer would sometimes be ‘Yes’, and sometimes be ‘No’. We need not predict the answer. Let it emerge. Just as when you conduct an experiment, in a science lab, the result, the observation, emerges. You don’t want to predict it.

And you don’t want to conclude beforehand. You want to see what is happening, don’t you? Similarly, just ask this question, and see what happens. You may find that magic is happening.

Before you accept or reject something, before you get wildly drawn to something, or before you just ignore something and move on, pause for five seconds, just five seconds, and ask, “What is in it for me? What is the real importance it holds?”

Do not be carried away by emotions. Do not be carried away by thoughts. Do not be carried away by impulsive conditioning. Just wait for five seconds, and ask,”Is it important?”

And that is the most important question, most life-giving question to ask.

“Is it really important?”

You will find that you are able to avoid a lot of trash.

And you will find that now you are able to love and respect, a lot of valuable things, and people, in life.

The moment you ask this, “What is this thing, this person, or this activity, bringing to me?”

Would you do that?

The Maths book is not just a Maths book. It stands for something. There are benefits from reading, and there are repercussions of not being with it. Dwell over them. “What is Mathematics? Why should I read it?” May be you will find that Mathematics is nothing, that it is a foolish thing to read Maths. And if you find that, then feel free to throw away the Maths book.

But, in case you discover, that the thing, the person, or an activity, is indeed important, then obviously, we are all honest people. And having discovered that something is precious, we will want to keep it.

Having discovered that somebody is lovable, we would want to be with him. Having discovered that the field of study, is indeed important, we would want to pursue it, right?

Five seconds.

“What is in it for me?

“How does it hold any importance?”

Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session:  On distraction of mind || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2019)


Editor’s Note: To receive regular updates on WhatsApp regarding wisdom articles by Acharya Ji and to get an opportunity to connect to him directly, click here

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