While I was staying in the ashram, I finished writing the first draft of this book and gave a copy of it to Baradeny. After she read a few pages of the draft, she wanted to talk about paranoia and anxiety in the class.
“Paranoia,” she said, “is a compound of two Greek words: para means ‘close,’ ‘near,’ ‘sideways,’ ‘similar,’ ‘resembling’; nus means ‘mind.’ So, we can define paranoia as an artificial mind close to the real one. It looks like a real mind, but it is a false mind. Whenever you let that artificial mind loose, it takes you by the hand, and you are led by it. Then, you stop thinking with your real mind and begin to think with this artificial mind or paranoia. It has the power to lead you into an illusory world. Gradually, you lose contact with the real world.
“What can you do to fight paranoia? What is the method to overcome and eliminate the artificial mind definitely? It’s not difficult. You shouldn’t try to suppress it. If you attack paranoia frontally, as in an open field battle, you will lose and end up strengthening it more and more. Instead, all you have to do is watch paranoia! Yes, just watch and watch this artificial mind. At last, it will fade away, because it can’t exist by itself. It is like a mirage bound to disappear as soon as you realize what it is.”
I tried to keep those words in mind. Whenever my artificial mind allured me into the twists and turns of illusion, I watched it calmly. As I kept watching my artificial mind, it became smaller and smaller like a little shy boy who runs to hide when he notices that a stranger is watching him. As the darkness of the night disappears when the day dawns, my paranoia faded away after my watching, at last.
During a break, Baradeny told us an old Indian story.
“Once upon a time, there was a bee that flitted over the flowers in a meadow. Now and then, it alighted on a flower to suck the nectar. Finally, the bee settled on an extraordinary flower, the most beautiful in the meadow. Its fragrance was intense and attractive enough to spellbind the bee. It didn’t want to leave the flower and lingered inside the corolla, forgetting to go back to its hive. While it was enjoying the nectar, an elephant came unexpectedly. With its trunk, it pulled the flower out and cast it away. Without its roots in the ground, the flower shut itself up immediately. The bee remained trapped inside the petals and couldn’t get out of it. Do you know what the significance of this story is? You ought to strive not to become attached to earthly pleasures too much. Otherwise, you will get trapped, as it happened to the bee.”
Then, Baradeny talked about anxiety.
“We can define anxiety as a kind of self-defense. It is not harmful if it is necessary. Anxiety makes us alert and aware of danger. But when anxiety is excessive, it becomes pathological. Once, I knew a man who couldn’t get out of his house because of his anxiety. Some people fear traveling by airplane, and some can’t drive a car because of fear. In extreme situations, some people can’t even walk in the street. They are much too anxious to do the usual things for others.
“There are many effective methods to treat anxiety, but the best of all is ‘watching yourself.’ In fact, anxiety, just like paranoia, doesn’t have a real basis. It is the fruit of your imagination. Anxiety is like being scared of your own shadow. But anxiety, like a shadow, is just a projection of your mind. If you keep watching yourself without striving to suppress anxiety, you will realize the difference between reality and illusion. Instead of running away from anxiety, watch yourself. You will understand that neither the shadow nor anxiety can hurt you because neither of them can stand alone. They are just projections!
“When I lived in Germany, I had a horse that was frightened by his shadow. The horse didn’t know that the shadow of his body couldn’t threaten him. It was not easy to convince him not to get scared. At last, he understood that his shadow was an image projected by his body. After understanding, he calmed down.
“Therefore, whenever anxiety tries to take over you, take a rest for some minutes and sit silently. Watch your breathing, watch your mind, watch your body, watch your thoughts, and watch your anxiety. Gradually, your mind will be purified, and your anxiety will vanish! You can’t find it anymore because it comes from an impure mind.”
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind