October 23

It is the mind that makes one wise or ignorant, bound or emancipated.
   – Sri Ramakrishna

Mental habits are like ditches in the mind. They have to be dug laboriously. But they can also be filled in and new channels can be dug. Take resentment for example. It does not burst full-blown into the mind; it grows. At first you simply expect people to behave towards you in a particular way. If they behave in their own way instead, you get surprised, then irritated. You are digging a little channel in consciousness.

In the early stages, this channel may be only an inch or so deep. Thought may flow down it, but it may also flow somewhere else. Also, the walls are still soft and crumbly; they may cave in and fill the channel a little – for example, when someone you dislike says something kind. There is an element of choice. But every time we respond to a situation with resentment, the channel gets a little deeper. Finally there is a huge Grand Canal in the mind. Then anything at all is enough to provoke a conditioned resentful response. Consciousness pours down the sluice of least resistance.

We can dig new mental channels – kind ways of thinking instead of resentful ones, patience instead of anger. Every time you try to return good will for ill will, love for hatred, you have dug your new, beneficial channel a little deeper. Transforming character, conduct, and consciousness is not a moral problem. It’s an engineering problem.