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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Solar system of the mind

Reading Time: 3 minutesRemoving your personal junk from its emotional orbit is easier than it sounds, writes SAROJA SRINIVASAN 

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I have always been intrigued by the fact that as the various rockets, satellites and space centres fly around in space they shed many tons of junk that spin around until they burn out.

Almost ten years ago, it was estimated that there could be up to 13 nuclear reactor cores and 32 nuclear reactors in orbit around the earth. The oldest debris, reportedly from 1958, is perhaps still in orbit. A glove lost by one of the astronauts was in orbit for a month and dubbed as “the most dangerous garment in history,” despite its miniscule size.

According to a recent estimate, there are about 10 million pieces of debris orbiting the earth. While most of the debris would have been necessary for the launching, functioning and maintenance of the useful gadgets in space, in time they become redundant and so are shed in to space.

It occurs to me that there is a considerable parallel between what happens in outer space and in the inner space of human life on earth.

As human beings in our journey through life, we do accumulate considerable amounts of unwanted debris within our minds. This is usually in the form of negative memories, emotions and other inappropriate thoughts. Quite often, they have the power to take us off on trajectories that we did not plan for, very quickly descending into the realm of despair, dejection and unhappiness.

Just as in outer space, over time, our inner space junk continues to increase at a phenomenal rate. Just like the astronaut’s glove, even a trivial situation, word or thought that is misunderstood increases the quantity of debris, becoming quite ‘dangerous,’ acquiring the power to derail by re-surfacing at the wrong time and place.

How does this happen?

Unlike the automated shedding that takes place in outer space, we do not make the effort to shed unwanted debris within our inner space periodically. In fact, the ‘inner space junk’ propels us to accumulate ‘junk’ on the outside in the form of material possessions and attachment to material wealth. The possessiveness within makes these external possessions so much more valuable than what they are worth. Spurred on by social conditioning, peer pressure and a need for acceptance, one continues down this path of material accumulation. This in turn makes us dependent on it, in the false belief that somehow it will lead us to the happiness we seek.

There is no doubt that the junk we accumulate within is a heavier burden than the material junk we collect over the years. The mental weariness that the inner space junk brings, creates more hurdles than mere physical or financial hassles can create.

How can we reduce this burden?

Just as a good gardener weeds the garden, we should de-clutter our mind. We need to look for the unwanted and potentially destructive thoughts, attitudes and memories that need weeding. Carrying less inner space junk and lightening the load inside the mind is ultimately the responsibility of the individual. No one else can do it. This effort requires discipline, mental fortitude and perseverance. In the rush and bustle of our everyday life, we are less tuned in to the more important aspects of our life that need attention.

The discipline required is simple and effective. A few minutes of quietness everyday, a chance to reflect on the day’s happenings, to acknowledge the way one handled the situations, is the beginning. This requires an honest evaluation of both the rights and wrongs. Looking for constructive ways of handling everyday hassles and acknowledging one’s strengths will provide the impetus we need for success in our lives. Success is measured not only by big achievements but also in the satisfaction we derive from small, everyday ones.

The burden of unwanted inner space junk can only be reduced or wiped out if one accepts the problem that exists. A serious investment in time to do this has to be made. Time is the most precious commodity in our fast-paced world. If one seeks the joy and fulfilment that an honest self-evaluation can bring to obtain certain lightness of being, periodic investment in time is necessary.

“Time is needed for the timeless to be,” philosopher J. Krishnamurthy once said famously.

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Dr Saroja Srinivasan
Dr. Srinivasan is a western trained clinical psychologist by profession; has been living in Sydney for over 40 years; interested in wisdom traditions in particular Indian philosophy and how it can inform us to lead a happy life; in her columns she has tried to synthesise her personal and professional experiences in dealing with everyday situations

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