“For the mind is very restless, O Krishna! It is hard to curb as the wind,” Arjuna complains to Lord Krishna in the Gita. The Lord advices him that his mind can be curbed by constant effort and dispassion.
Our mind is restless because we have many desires.
Swami Sivananda says: “If you want to check the wandering mind, you will have to renounce all sorts of desires and control the indriyas (sense organs) first.”
Mantra meditation is a good way to control the mind. We sit down in a quiet place, close our eyes and repeat the name of God or a mantra for 10-30 minutes. Initially the mind wanders but with practice, the mind gets under our control. This exercise should preferably be done at least two hours after meal.
When the mind is filled with a variety of thoughts (called mind chatter), then it is helpful to write down whatever comes to mind for 10-30 minutes. The thoughts get out of our system and we are able to concentrate on the task in hand.
Yogis have found that pranayama (breathing exercise) makes the mind “one-pointed” or concentrated. Pranayama checks the mind’s tendency to think too much.
If we are distracted, we cannot read. In such a situation, it is easier to control one’s actions than one’s mind. Our actions are more under the control of our will. So, if we are unable to control the mind, we can take up some physical activity and gradually the mind too gets under control.
It is difficult to control the mind when we are under the sway of baser emotions like lust and anger. Fasting and prayer keep lust under control while observing silence is beneficial to curb anger. It is helpful to take simple food when we are in distress. Alcohol is dangerous because it loosens the hold of that part of the mind (called the superego by Sigmund Freud) that keeps under control our desire to pursue pleasure.