Mind & Sleep

Mind & Sleep

All of us at some point in time have had trouble sleeping. No matter what we do, the body wants to sleep, but the mind says, “No way!” Why does this happen?  Sleep is our birthright!

Sleep doesn’t just happen (or not happen) during the night. How you sleep is affected by what goes on during the day. If your day involves constant thinking, jumping from one thing to another without any rest, then guess what? That’s going to continue into the night.

We need to understand that life has no upper and lower limits. We can work ourselves to death, we can think ourselves to death and we don’t realize it. We think that, “Oh, it’s just thinking; it’s wonderful, it’s nice,” but you can go crazy, you can go mad just by thinking. There’s really no upper limit since the mind is not a limited phenomenon. It’s only the body that is limited; the mind is totally free to imagine whatever it wants to imagine. It can go deeper and deeper into layers and layers of thinking where you can get totally trapped.

Our minds are like the engine of a car that we never shut off. We leave it running continuously, day after day, year after year, letting it just go crazy with thoughts. We need to learn how to shut the engine off when we’re not using it so we can get some rest! The way to do this is to incorporate “conscious rest” into our daily routines.  Conscious rest is simply to sit quietly and watch your breath. Each hour, if possible, sit for 10 minutes and just watch your breath. When a thought comes into your mind, just let it go; don’t entertain it. The monotony of watching the breath can magically keep thoughts at bay because your mind can only handle one thing at a time; if you’ve got it tied up watching the breath, then there’s no room for any imaginary trips of horror into the future or depressing dramas from the past.

This is going to seem impossible at first, because the mind has never been approached like this–it’s had free rein to think whatever it wants, whenever it wants. To gain control, you’ve got to be persistent. Just think: If you work for 8 hours per day and are able to sit 5 or 6 times during the day (and a little after work as well) and practice watching the breath, after a week or so you’ll start getting the hang of it. Then, the next time you lay down to sleep and your mind says, “I’m going off on a tangent now,” you can say, “No way–I’m watching the breath. You be still.”

And sleep will come.

           

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Getting Rid of Conflicts in your Thinking

Getting Rid of Conflicts in your Thinking

“You cannot transcend your thoughts as long as there is a conflict in your thoughts.”

You cannot transcend your thoughts as long as there is a conflict in your thoughts. It is conflict that occupies the Self with thoughts, because thoughts try to resolve conflict. Imagine you pick up a problem to solve and you go sit in meditation. Throughout your meditation you will only be thinking about solving that problem, and your meditation will become an intellectual exercise. You will not be able to observe your breath, nor will you be able to observe your body, because there will be a conflict that needs to be resolved and you will be completely occupied with it.

With enough meditation, you can go beyond the conflict of the mind. At one point in time, after observing your mind enough, you will know the game the mind plays with you. It becomes very clear. There is no real problem to solve; there is no actual problem. The problem that you are trying to solve in your mind is an induced idea of a problem. One moment will come, after the same problem has come up again and again, when you will simply drop it. In that moment you will know that there is no need to solve the problem.

Dropping a problem simply means shifting your awareness from the problem, from thoughts, to some other domain. That shift is very significant. As of now all of our focus is on our thoughts. We give our thoughts too much importance. By watching the thoughts enough, the shift happens from watching the thoughts to watching the body.

The body is also a form of a conflict. Just like two thoughts contradict each other, the body also contradicts itself. You don’t know this because the body has a completely different language. It doesn’t use thoughts to communicate; it uses sensations, it uses pain. The pain and pleasure that you experience in ideas is the contradiction of the mind, while the physical pain and pleasure that the body experiences is its contradiction.

Think about it: What are you doing when you try to dissolve a conflict in the mind? You are trying to move from the zone of pain to the zone of happiness. You are trying to move away from the zone of confusion to the zone of clarity. It is the same with the body. The body is constantly juggling, moving around, because it is in conflict. There is one part of the body that only wants to rest, and another part of the body that says, “If you completely rest I’m going to die. Remain alert, keep your spine erect, and don’t fall asleep!” So, there is a conflict.

After you have watched enough, you will slowly realize that the body is not a conflict that needs to be solved. You only have to let go of it. And this letting go will happen naturally. It doesn’t happen as a conscious decision. You cannot just say, “Okay, I want to let go of my body now,” because the moment that you say you want to let go of your body, it is actually the body who is speaking, not you. The Self does not speak. The Self does not articulate anything. When the Self is completely fed up with this questioning, asking, learning, meditating, sitting, and watching, then it simply drops all of this. In that one moment, without your knowledge, the body will relax so deeply that you will experience a transcendental state of blissful reality.

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Observing what you are not

Observing what you are not

I am the spark of aliveness that is making this body move–the spark that will never die.

Once I began meditating, certain things started making sense–real sense, as in “why didn’t I see this before now?” sense.  The basic piece of information I’ve discovered is that “I” am not my body nor my thoughts.  “I” am the spark of aliveness that is making this body move–the spark that will never die.  “I” am that same spark of aliveness that is in everything that is alive; plants, birds, fish, animals…. everything! “I” am just a brief visitor to Earth and I need a body to be able to experience this life.  How we exactly get our bodies is still something I’m learning, but I totally accept the fact that “I” am a spiritual being and my body is part of the Earth. It will perish some day and return to the Earth, but “I” will go on…. WOW!

My mind is also part of my Earthly being, although it’s not part of my body.  It seems to want to go its own way most of the time. Think about it: you’re just cruising along, having a wonderful day when all of a sudden !!!!****** @@@ your mind decides it wants to start a horror show, without your permission, of course! Does this sound like something you have control over? Nope. Thoughts have a mind of their own. The only way we can gain any control over our thoughts is to watch them.  Watch them and laugh at the ridiculousness of the parade.  Thoughts move in an endless parade, you know, moving from one to another to another with seamless precision. Only when we recognize that thoughts don’t belong to us will we be able to have a peaceful mind. I find it interesting that when I started meditating, thoughts were rampant and I could barely stand to close my eyes and be quiet. Once I started observing the thoughts it seemed like they were embarrassed to come out–really! It truly works. (I know these things seem a little “pie in the sky” for us Americans, but sometimes you’ve just got to trust that there’s something out there that you don’t know already.)

How to get past the parade of thoughts? Sit very still and be very quiet. It can be called meditation, but it’s really just the method to still your mind. Observe your thoughts, observe your body, and actually, everything you know should become your objects of observation from now on, from this moment on. If you know your body, then it is not you — you should just observe it. Deep down you should keep telling yourself, “This is not me”. If you observe your mind, if there is a thought that comes, immediately observe it and say, “That is not me, it is external.” Everything that is happening in your mind, in your body, in your thoughts, emotions–everything is external to you.

So now, identify everything that is external to you. Use a pen and paper if you want. Just make a note of everything you can say that is not you. Spend some time with your body. Sit quiet, watch it. Don’t just intellectually watch it. Spend some time. Observe the body. This takes something more than just a “glossed-over” effort, but it’s really important, so it’s worth the genuine effort. When you come to the conclusion, “Okay, I have no control over this body and it is not me,” it will take some time, then you write down body. Then observe your thoughts. Just see if those thoughts are you, or are they just simply happening. And then make a note — thoughts. Similarly, everything external that you observe, just keep watching. Eventually all you will have left is “you”. Then life begins.

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Detachment: The Practice of Self-Love

Detachment: The Practice of Self-Love

First, let’s understand what attachment is. Attachment begins with a desire of the mind; the root of all attachments is a desire. When the object of that desire begins to manifest, either in the form of a relationship or in the form of a fulfilled desire, then the mind subconsciously attaches itself to that object. The mind attaches itself to that object because it is deriving pleasure out of it and it does not want to let go, so the mind starts to create a bond between itself and the object of pleasure.

Since attachment is so fundamental to the way we live, it is impossible to exist without being attached to something. In other words, attachment is necessary to the very process of living. It is like the web the spider weaves. Although the web is sticky, it serves a certain purpose for the spider. The spider knows the nature of the web, and it knows how to navigate through it.

Our problem comes because we are not consciously aware of the process of attachment; therefore, we do not know how to navigate through its sticky nature. We just keep weaving our web and eventually get ourselves entangled in it. On the other hand, a spider knows how to navigate in her web, since her web was a conscious process. The way to navigate through the world of our attachments is to bring in the non-stickiness of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the only non-sticky nature of our mind. When we are conscious of what we are doing, when each and every action of ours is filled with this awareness, we will not become entangled in our attachments.

There is a saying that everything idiotic in our life comes as a process of getting attached to some idea. The word “idiot” comes from the root word “idea,” and just means someone who completely subscribed to one idea of life and attached themselves to it. To understand this more deeply, we must see that attachment itself is idiotic. None of our attachments will last forever. They only serve a certain purpose in our lives; they come and go.

The moment we become attached to something, it becomes a root for our pain and suffering. In fact, there is not much other pain besides detaching from something that we are attached to. All pain is just a variation of detachment. When detachment is sudden, like a breakup or a separation from a place where you have lived for a very long time, it causes deep pain and misery. However, if detachment is practiced as an art on a daily basis, as a conscious process, then detachment itself can be very illuminating. Not only will the practice of detachment separate us from unnecessary fears, worries, and disappointments, but the practice of detachment will also lead us to a sense of individuality. Detachment allows an individual to see the separateness from everything else around them and become complete within themselves, no longer dependent on their objects of attachment. Through the practice of detachment, you become the very source of your attachment, and you become a complete individual in that process.

The best way to become detached is simply to observe the process of attachment. First, acknowledge and accept that we are attached to something and that attachment is the cause of our pain and suffering. Buddha said, “Desire is the root cause of all suffering.” The reason he said that is because we are tormented by nothing else apart from our desires, and we have no control over our desires. We have absolutely no say in which direction our desires are pushing or pulling us. A mind that is continuously tormented by desires can never find peace or happiness.

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You can remake that cup of coffee

You can remake that cup of coffee

Let us, without any doubt, come to an understanding that we are not our minds. The moment we separate ourselves from our minds, we give ourselves an opportunity to learn about and understand our minds. It is impossible to be objective and learn about our minds if we simply assume that we are our thoughts. When we separate ourselves from our thoughts, it becomes easy to see the flaws and shortcomings of our thought process. It also gives us the opportunity to clearly see what is wrong with our thinking patterns, and change them if we want to. We all know we can alter or remake a bad cup of coffee into a better one because we are not that cup of coffee. Similarly, we can alter and change our minds because we are not our minds.

The way to separate ourselves from our minds is to keenly observe our thought process moment to moment. When we stop assuming that our thought process is there to support our desires and goals, we can become critical of our thinking process and observe what is happening moment to moment.; we can begin to observe our thoughts and stop assuming that our thinking is always right. This makes it extremely easy to identify negative and irrelevant thinking patterns and eventually change them into positive and useful ones.

“The moment we separate ourselves from our minds, we give ourselves an opportunity to learn about and understand our minds.”

After all, the secret to our success and happiness is hidden in our own thought process. What we think, we become. We are nothing but the end result of our continuous thought processes. If we are not able to identify the mistakes in our thought process, then we will eventually become its victims. That being said, there is no point in blaming ourselves for our ineffective thinking. It is better to watch our thoughts regularly in order to make the necessary changes, and to point them in the right direction.

Additionally, dealing with our thoughts is like dealing with a mob. It is extremely difficult to control a mob and direct it towards a certain purpose. We need to have a strong understanding of what we really want, before directing this collective mob of thought processes. If we ourselves are not sure about what we want, then it is impossible to have control over our thoughts. 

Practices like mindfulness and meditation make a huge difference to the quality of one’s living. When we spend some time every day to sit quiet and watch our thinking patterns, we will be giving ourselves an opportunity to understand how thoughts actually function. Now, why is this important? It is important because it is impossible to solve a problem if we cannot identify it clearly.

Observing our thoughts throughout the day will help us identify our problems. The secret to our happiness is hidden in our thought process. The more we are able to understand our thoughts, the easier it is to bring them under our control. When we can say with absolute certainty that our mind is fully under our control, then it is not that difficult to accomplish something we want, and experience a richer and fuller life.

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