Imagine looking at an analog clock. Now, follow the little dial that indicates the seconds.

For how long can you hold your attention exclusively on the movement of that little dial?

Without thinking of something else. Without a brief moment of gazing away.

Simple, pure undiluted attention.

Can you make it past 10 seconds?

You may find that it’ll be less than that before thoughts begin to arise that distract you from concentrating fully on the clock.

This is how it is for most of us.

To what degree does you making the decision to do this exercise and test your concentration determine what holds the space of your awareness. And for how long?

Who’s in charge? Are you?

Consciously choose what you expose your mind to

“Every thought that arises in the mind has its roots in data you have already accumulated.” ― Sadhguru

Whether or not you can settle into a state of deep concentration and experience a state beyond thought while resting in profound stillness, sooner or later thoughts arise again.

Having practiced meditation for over 20 years I’ve experienced a whole range of thoughts, images, sounds, memories and what not appear in the field of my awareness when trying to concentrate.

In fact, due to my experience with awareness-based practices, I’m acutely aware of my thoughts most of the time as I go through my day.

Why is this relevant?

Because thoughts come from somewhere. And they do influence us. As the quote from Sadhguru states above every thought has its roots in data you’ve accumulated.

In other words, your thoughts have their roots in your past experiences.

Recently one of my mentors reminded a group of us that who and what we carry in our hearts determines our destiny. It determines how we perceive life and how we feel.

That’s why it's so important that you choose wisely what and who you think about most.

Yogic wisdom describes the image of a wish-fulfilling tree that lives within our heart.

What we focus on and devote our energy to most gets blessed by this magic tree. Therefore what we hold in our hearts tends to come alive within us by the grace of that tree.

The more we nourish certain thoughts and impressions the more these start to color and determine our destiny.

So, who is setting the agenda of what occupies your mind and what you hold in your heart? Have you ever reflected on that?

Is it you? Is it the media? Your social media feeds, parents, friends, strangers?

Whose thoughts are you thinking?

If you want to have more of a say in how your destiny will unfold begin to take more responsibility for what you expose yourself to and what you focus on.

Don’t carry people in your heart who don’t reflect your dreams. Don’t dwell on things that disempower you.

Review what you are focussing on throughout the day. With this, I don’t mean what you want to focus on. But, what you are focussing on.

How do you know what you’re focussing on? Observe the content of your thoughts, topics you end up talking about with others, and the media you consume through the day.

How much of this is informed by original thought? How much of what occupies your mind is according to your own agenda and not a repetition of other people’s ideas and words?

Do you let the media dictate what occupies your mind? Just look around you and you’ll find most people do.

Not sure about this? Don’t listen, read, or watch any news for even only a week. Don’t go on social media. Don’t leave what you expose your mind to chance.

You may find by doing this you’ve given your mind more space to come up with more original insight and thoughts. You may actually find yourself feeling more like ‘you’.

The more vigilant you are of holding in your heart that which is sacred and real the more you awaken to the essence of who you are.

Become skillful in discerning who to listen to, what to read, and who to spend time with.

Seek out experiences and people through who’s association you feel more whole and connected inside.

Create a mind that becomes a real friend to you.

Our mind is powerful and when we use it well we can achieve great things.

Once there was a man who sat down under a huge tree to rest and take shelter from the heat of the midday sun. Unbeknown to him, it was a wish-fulfilling tree.

As he started to relax he lay down beneath it, gently allowing himself to daydream about the various things he would like to have in his life.

He started to think about beautiful palaces and thought to himself, "I would love to live in a majestic palace made of the most exquisite materials." No sooner had he finished that thought a most opulent palace appeared in front of him, glistening in the afternoon sun.

He stared in disbelief as it began to dawn on him that his wish had actually come true.

He tried it out again.

“I wish I’d have some servants to work in the palace.”

Sure enough, a row of servants appeared before him.

“Oh wow!” he thought, “this is wonderful! I wish I could have an array of exotic foods.” A banquet appeared which he proceeded to devour with great relish and excitement.

Realising he could now have anything he wanted his next thought was “I wish I could have a beautiful woman to share my palace with me.” And of course, there she was.

They enjoyed each other’s company for some time and then another thought came into his head. “I wonder what would happen if this woman turns into a tiger.”

Unfortunately, that came to pass too; in the next instant, she had devoured him!

Practical tips

In addition to some of the suggestions mentioned earlier, I offer you two more suggestions of how to plant, hold, and nourish in your heart that which is most meaningful to you.

Remember that what you practice grows stronger and what you focus on you get more of.

Know how to begin your day

Right upon waking your mind is most impressionable for about the first 18 minutes of your day. What you do and focus on in this time sets the tone for the day.

It sets the momentum for your mind.

Use this precious time to connect with stillness and your own inner being. You can do this by simply sitting up in bed. For just a few moments be still and simply sense your own presence.

Then reaffirm to yourself your highest aspirations and your plan for the day.

As you begin to consciously engage with the day make sure that you begin with something that inspires you. Create a morning routine that brings you alive and ignites enthusiasm for the day.

Know how to end your day

Practice introspection at night.

Every evening half an hour before going to bed, get comfortable and take some time to reflect quietly on your whole day. From the moment you got up in the morning to the present time. Without any criticism or judgment whatsoever.

As you review your day, replace any experiences that you would have preferred to be different, with positive changes.

See yourself reacting in a much more constructive way. For example, replacing impatience with patience, anger with tolerance, and all resentments with forgiveness through acceptance. This is known as the process of substitution.

During the night the subconscious mind dictates all these positive changes to the conscious mind and within a few days, you’ll be surprised how things change around you. You will find that when confronted with events at work, or at home, you will be reacting quite differently.

You’ll notice what you hold in your heart begins to change.

How you speak and hold yourself will begin to change. As a consequence the way the world responds to you begins to change.

And with it, your destiny.