The Manmukh & Gurmukh Mindset

Our thoughts are like a drama. They come and go, and we don’t have any control over them....

Most of us are being controlled by our mind. We jump on the first thought that arises in our mind. We let that thought decide how to react to different situations. How to respond to crises and solve problems. How to respond to people in our surroundings and how to be in our relationship with our partner. How to act at work. How to talk to ourselves. Giving away the power to our minds can have disturbing effects on our wellbeing, our relationships with others and how we react in different situations.

Let’s take an example. You are with one of your closest friend’s party. The friend has made a card for everyone present at the party. She makes you all sit on the sofa and says that she has made something for you all because she loves you a lot. She starts distributing the cards. When she comes to you, her hand is empty and she says that she forgot the card at home. Your mind might say “She doesn’t care about me anymore”. You jump onto that thought. You feel disappointed, sad and angry. Then your next thought comes “We are not such good friends anymore”. A feeling of being alone arises in you. Then your next thought comes “What might the other friends at the party think about this?” You start feeling anxious. Your shins are warmer and your heart-rate starts speeding up. You start feeling uncomfortable and your mind associates that feeling of discomfort with your friend: “She is to be blamed for my discomfort.” After this episode you might choose to distance yourself from one of your closest friends or maybe even worse – you start ignoring her when she tries to contact you.

Do you see what happened in that example? You gave in for the first thought that arose in your mind. What effect did that have? You lost one of your closest friends. In the same case you can jump onto thoughts like “I am not good enough” or “I don’t know how to do anything”  and then you continue in a negative thought circle that can have disturbing impacts on your relationships with other people and to yourself. This is one aspect of our manmukh way of dealing with life – being “mind-facing”. We just absorb everything our mind says.

The reality is that we always have a choice. We have a choice if we want to jump on to our first thought and thereby continue on to that evil chain of thoughts that might disrupt ours, or others peace, or if we want to say “stop” to our mind. When something bad happens to us, we choose how we react to this bad happening – either we go into depression and feel that our life is miserable, or we decide to not let this bad happening define our state of mind. Between every stimulus (our friend not giving us the card) and response (thinking that she doesn’t care), we have the power to choose. We can either choose to act reactively to the stimulus (distancing ourselves from the friend) or act proactively (say “stop” to our mind and accepting that she forgot the card she made for us) to the issue at hand.

Our thoughts are like a drama. They come and go, and we don’t have any control over them. They play around in the mind and we as manmukhs believe in their drama. We take the drama as a reality.

I believe one aspect of the gurmukh is that you are more aware of your thoughts because you know that the thoughts that appear in your mind are random, and you don’t have any control of them. As a gurmukh you are conscious of what comes in your mind and with that consciousness, you are able to distance yourself from the mind’s voice.  

Let us analyze the example mentioned above in a gurmukh way of dealing with it. Your friend comes empty-handed to you and say that she forgot the card at home. You are conscious about how your mind works and your first thought says “She doesn’t care about me anymore”. Instead of jumping on that thought, you accept that the thought came into your mind, but you decide that you don’t want to react upon it. The situation is neutral – that she forgot the card at home. The mind analyzed the situation to be negative. However, if you as a gurmukh way of dealing with this, decide not to react upon your thought, you will behave in a different way in the situation. 

You resist jumping on the first thought and that prevents you from falling into the mind trap of a cycle full of negative thoughts which you react upon. So instead of distancing from your friend, you might react with “Oh, that’s okay. You have arranged everything so beautifully for all of us – it’s completely normal to forget something”.

What happens when we are more aware of what appears in our mind? When we choose not to jump on our thoughts all the time? When we give our mind away to the gurus wisdom? When we understand that our mind is just playing a drama, and that what our mind says is not always the reality? In sukhmani sahib we have one line that says “Man baechai sathigur kai paas. This saevak kae kaaraj raas” – “One who sells his mind to the True Guru – that humble servant’s affairs are resolved“.

Most of our problems are caused by our mind and our manmukh way of dealing with our life. Depression, anxiety, interpersonal problems, low self-esteem and the list goes on. To move from a manmukh mindset to a gurmukh mindset takes effort. We all are so into the manmukh way of dealing with life that we don’t see that there is another way of dealing with things.


Harveen Kaur

Harveen Kaur

I am a psychologist and I am in love with the work, both developing myself and serving my clients

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