Controlling your Mind with your Body

Controlling your Mind with your Body

Severe stress or panic attacks are moments when you feel you have no control over what’s happening around you, you have no control over your mind and body, and is a direct result of uncontrolled excessive thinking about something – usually something negative. You’re expecting a result, you’re projecting your thought process into that future, and you’re looking at the consequences of that thing happening or not happening. It’s always in the future, it’s always result-oriented, and it always reflects some adverse effects of the desired result. If the result is not favorable, your mind is lost; you’re lost. You don’t know what to do.

Creating an Anchor

Panic attacks and sudden outbursts of anger or stress cannot simply be controlled by the environment or the situation that you’re in. Your mind is projecting itself into the future, and you are lost somewhere in the future. Unless you have a regular habit of learning how to come back to the present moment, you cannot simply spring to the present moment without an anchor. Even the thought process that  “Okay, now you’re getting stressed, you’re getting anxious, just come back to your breath, just relax” can’t happen. You should have created enough opportunities where you have told this to yourself.

If you just try to do this for the first time, it is impossible, because where is the memory of it? It’s like this: When you are surrounded by a certain emotion, that emotion engulfs you completely. Relaxation is a different state of mind to stress. Stress and relaxation cannot be accommodated within the same emotional framework, because they’re fundamentally different emotions. The effects of stress on your body and the effects of relaxation on your body are opposite because they are opposite states of mind. Similarly, when you’re in a stressful state of mind you can only generate stressful thoughts. When you are lost in stressful thoughts, you can only be stressed. You can’t bring in an opposite thought process that will calm the stress level without creating the habit, without practice. This is where you need to understand how your mind and your body function.

Thoughts and Emotions

We tend to think that we can achieve everything just by thinking because it is possible. We can plan for the future, and we can do a lot of things with our thinking, but thoughts have no power over our emotions; thoughts are always subservient to our emotions. Thought is like a train that can only run on the tracks of emotions. If you change the track, put the thought on a different emotional track, it’ll simply run on it. If it is not compatible with that track, it will not run, but will just fall off. When you catch yourself running certain thoughts, you should know that you are in a certain state of mind.

You can conquer stress and panic attacks not with thoughts, but by changing your state of mind. This is where the trick is: You cannot use a thought to change the state of your mind, but you have to use something totally different. What else do you know apart from your thoughts? Is there anything else apart from your thoughts? Of course, there is!

Apart from your thinking and being lost in thoughts, you have a body. You have your legs, your hands, your breathing, your heartbeat, your muscles and bones, and you have your whole physicality. Why don’t you use your physicality to control your emotions? Why don’t you learn to use your body to control your emotions? That is the most practical, logical, and scientific way of approaching your emotions.

Recognizing the Cycles of the Mind

Instead of using your body in times of emotional distress, what youusually do is completely let go of it. You start searching for other kinds of thoughts to take control of your mind, which is just not possible because you are in a certain state of mind. When you are in a fearful state your mind can only generate fearful thoughts. Even if a positive thought tries to enter it, because the track is of fear, either it can run on the fearful track and become fearful itself, or simply drop off. A nice, positive thought begins, but it does not take hold in that state of mind. Even a positive thought becomes negative in a negative state of mind.

You need to understand that these negative states of mind are just habitual things that happen to us: They have no purpose. Just like the body regulates your temperature and keeps you balanced when you’re about to trip, the mind does the same thing. It sometimes puts you in a negative state, sometimes it puts you in a neutral state, and sometimes it jolts you – it scares you! Not for any special purpose, just because this is the way the mind functions. This is the way the mind sustains itself.

If the body gets too hot, it will sweat. That is its mechanism to cool down. When the mind is totally relaxed, when the mind is not agitated, is not disturbed, it craves for disturbance. When there is no disturbance, the mind is lost. This is when the “What am I? What is my purpose?” questioning begins, because for us, even relaxation is to be with certain relaxed thoughts. We really don’t know what it is to relax meditatively, relax existentially. Of course, there is some type of relaxation which will feel perfectly natural to you, but all of the relaxations are simply of the mind.

The mind cannot simply be in one state all the time, just like the body cannot be in one state all the time. You eat food, you do some exercise, and after a while it begins to get hungry. Why? It begins to get hungry because that is the process. The body has a cyclical process: Activity/rest, heat/cold, hunger/states of non-hunger. Our mind is exactly the same: Happiness/sadness, stress/relaxation. Because we have not accepted this nature of the mind, when the mind puts us into certain difficult and stressful situations, we tend to think it is something completely abnormal – it is happening only to us. “I’m not able to control what’s happening around.” In fact, that is the natural functioning mechanism of the mind. How you go beyond it is to fully understand the nature of the mind, is to fully understand how emotions work, and when you get into those negative emotional states you just need to hold on.

This will Pass

A single thought process that can conquer so much negativity is the idea that “This will pass. It’s not going to always be like this.” Even if you want to hold on to that stress, even if you want to make it permanent,  you will not be able to. Eventually, whether you want it or not, you will come out of it. Since you have not chosen to be in that state, it is difficult to choose to come out of it, because it is a combination of a lot of things. It’s a combination of the way you have looked at your mind, the way you have looked at situations, and how long you have been in those stressful situations. It has become a pattern.

The only thing that you can do is to learn how to step away from all these thought processes and simply come back to the body. Just observing the breath, the sensations of the body, or switching your awareness from thoughts to just listening seems extraordinarily simple. In fact, it is simple. For example, when you’re taking a walk and you’re thinking about something – you’re thinking about the consequences of that thing, and suddenly there’s a rush of anxiety, stress.

Coming Back to the Body

Instead of thinking about consequences, just listen to what is happening around you. You might listen to the sounds of the birds, or the sounds of the vehicles, or people talking. Immediately you are shifting your landscape of reality from somewhere lost in your thoughts to what is happening around you. There is nothing really happening immediately around you that is causing you that stress unless someone is pointing a gun at you, or someone is threatening you. Thankfully, that kind of stress is rare; we don’t experience that sort of stress that often. The stress we usually experience is the one that we have created because of our mental process, because of our thinking.

Coming back to the body appears extraordinarily simple, and it is simple, but unless you have practiced it, you will not be reminded to do it. When it is really necessary, when it is required, you do not remember it because you’re in a different state of mind. When you do remember to come back to the present moment, you automatically relax. For whatever reason, the mind goes through that process of stress and comes back to relaxation. That is when you will remember, “I wish I could have just simply observed my breath. I wish I could have just simply sat and taken a break.” You will recognize how easy it is to step out of those states when you’re reflecting on those situations, and actually not in that state. “Why do I get into those states? Now I’m feeling happy. Now my life is good, but when I’m in those states I cannot control myself.” It’s because you are engulfed by that emotion.

iDealing with Emotions

When you’re dealing with emotions, you cannot give instructions. When you are engulfed by a certain emotion you cannot tell yourself, “All right, just sit and relax.” Even when you sit quietly, you will be stressed. Even if you run, you’ll be stressed. Even if you jump in the water to swim, you’ll be stressed because you’re in that emotional state. The only way to jump out of the emotional state is to use your body as the anchor.

This is difficult to understand if you start thinking in terms of concepts. This is not a concept: I mean exactly what I’m saying. I’m not interpreting anything. I’m saying that when you are beginning to feel the stress, just come back to the sensations of the body – whatever that is. Just shift your focus and awareness to the body; the stress of the body, the pain of the body, the way you’re breathing. Get into the existential framework that you are in at that very moment. That will bring you to the present moment. The first few times you will not be able to do this, you will only think about it later. After a little bit of practice, you will be able to do this easily. Then you will realize that everyone is going through the same problem – everyone.

There’s not a single person who is not suffering from stress, anxiety, or panic attacks. It’s just that they have learned how not to express it; they keep it hidden within. However, if you were to actually look at the minds of people, most of the time it’s terrifying because they have figured out that it’s not good to express that state outwardly.  A lot of people don’t even seek help, because they think it is something totally negative. You will realize that everybody’s going through the same problem, and the solution is as simple as: Just step away from that mental process.

Bringing in Your Senses

As long as you have a mind, you will be stressed. As of now, you are dealing with the mind as if it is the only ingredient that is available. You are trying to cook a fabulous dish using only one ingredient: That is thought. You’re wanting to use it for everything. If you are garnishing, you’re adding thoughts. For taste, you’re adding the same thoughts. There’s no variety! Why don’t you bring something different to the dish? What is something different? You have five senses and your mind is simply an enveloping sixth sense – that’s it: The sense of thinking.

Sometimes just use your sense of seeing; just try to see, not think. Sometimes just listen, or just smell. Sometimes just taste. If you’re getting stressed, if you’re not able to do anything else, just take some chocolate and put it in your mouth, or have a cup of coffee. Even the simplest of things will work, but whatever you do, you’ve got to do it in reality, in the present moment, using your body. Anything other than thinking about a solution is the right solution. Anything other than, “How do I get over this problem? I have to find a solution to this. Let me think about it.” That is not the solution.

Don’t “Think” About it

Thinking about a solution for stress will stress you more, so the solution for stress is something totally different – totally different ingredients, a totally different flavor, which is your body. Using your body and your senses, you can absolutely control your emotional states. When you are beginning to notice that you are losing control of your mind and thoughts, just say, “All right, I want to move away from my thinking sense, to listening, to feeling, to being in the moment. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to do it.

Initially, the mind will not allow you, because it is more powerful. Your habit of being with the body has not kicked in, but the habit of being with the mind has become very strong, has become set in concrete. To break that, it will take a while. This is what mindfulness is. After a while, you will see what a beautiful asset the body is, what a marvelous friend the body is and what a bloody nemesis the mind is. The moment you see all these things clearly and begin to practice mindfulness, meditation, and being in the moment, gradually you will be able to go beyond your severe stress and anxiety. It won’t happen immediately. It won’t happen just tomorrow, but for sure you will go beyond it within a matter of a few months or a few years.

This is a proper, long-term, and permanent solution. If you try to get rid of stress just at that moment by drugs or alcohol or doing something that your body and mind don’t like, it’s only going to be a momentary solution. It’ll come back again. A gradual approach is always best.

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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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