Walter Mischelle of Stanford University in 1972 conducted an experiment which is famously known as “The Marshmallow Test”. Under this experiment, few kids were brought to a room and were offered a choice between one small but immediate reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time. The reward was a marshmallow or a chocolate bar of their choice. The children were told that if they resisted for more than 15-30 minutes, they would be rewarded with double marshmallows or chocolate bars. Children were then left to themselves. A few of them did not think twice. They immediately ate the marshmallow/chocolate. Few others resisted for 5-10 minutes. There were also those who looked away. They controlled their tongues for 20 minutes. A small percentage of them accomplished the task. They succeeded in resisting the chocolate. In the end, they were able to relish two chocolates.
After 20 years, these children were tracked down. It was found that those who resisted the chocolate for a longer period of time were successful in their lives. Those who gave up soon had relationship problems, health issues and some of them had also been to jail. What was the cause of such extremities? Will-power. Yes, the amount of self-control and willpower we have determines the quality of our life. Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya said:
जितं जगत केन, मनो हि येन
jitam jagat kena? mano hi yena.
“Who can conquer the world? The one who has conquered the mind.” Therefore, if we wish to reach the heights of success, we need to increase our willpower.
There is an interesting story in this regard. There was a king who was very proud of himself. He always wanted his courtiers to praise him. He wanted his glories to be exalted profusely. However, a brave courtier told the king, “O king, he is not the most powerful who has conquered several kingdoms, but he is the greatest who has conquered ten-thousand elephants.” The king was surprised on hearing this. He asked, “Is there such a person?” He replied, “Yes, Your Majesty! There is such a man in the neighboring kingdom.” The king along with his army set off for battle with this man. When they reached the neighboring kingdom, they found out that it was a sage who had conquered 10,000 elephants. They visited his ashram. The enlightened one was deep in meditation.
Everyone sat down. A deep sense of peace and calm overcame them. Everyone was absorbed in deep meditation. A few hours passed by. The sage opened his eyes. All of them also opened their eyes. Everyone was at peace. That is when the king realized that this mind of ours is like a mad elephant. It does all the wrong things. But the one who can conquer his mind can also conquer the minds of others. This is how the sage had conquered ten thousand elephants. He humbly bowed down to the sage and left.
Similarly, we too need to control our senses and mind. How do we do this? Shree Maharaj ji teaches us,
मन को मानो शत्रु उसकी सुनहु जनी कछु प्यारे
mann ko mano shatru usaki sunahu jani kachu pyare
“Your mind is your enemy. Do not listen to it.” Every time the mind wants to do something pleasurable, do the opposite of it. Our mind often says, ‘I do not want to do yoga.’ We have to force the mind to do yoga. Building a healthy routine requires self-discipline. That will only come by increasing our willpower. Just like the body can be trained to develop muscles, our mind can also be trained to develop the muscle of willpower. We can start small. Suppose you have an urge to eat ice cream, do not eat it. You want to watch TV for another 5 minutes. Resist it. Watch a kirtan for 5 minutes instead. The more you resist the gratification of the senses, the more you will develop your willpower.
The most powerful technique to increase self-control is meditation. Research shows that 3 hours of meditation can change your thought pattern significantly. Therefore, we should meditate for at least 20-30 minutes every day. Over a period of one month, you are sure to experience a new you.
Let us all start meditating now!
Let us conquer our mind and hence, conquer the world!