The Mind Can Free Us or Enslave Us: The Choice is Yours!
Many of us have a million and one diversions that keep us from dealing with our strong emotions and negate our ability to live in the present moment. I live with chronic pain due to an incurable spinal disease. Yesterday was a particularly bad day—I could not handle the pain level and it made me intensely angry and mentally stressed. Instead of doing a meditation practice that I knew would dissolve the energy of the strong emotions, I walked up to the ice cream shop and got a double dip of coffee ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. At the time, this seemed like a much easier way of pacifying the horrible day I was having than doing a simple meditation practice. On my way home from the ice cream shop, I sat upon the steps of my local church and prayed for help with the current situation. As I truly allowed myself to feel and experience the mental pain and anguish caused by the physical pain, I cried, and the intense emotions dissipated. The rest of the day was pleasant, and I was able to interact with others—and myself-- more lovingly. I had reconnected with the peace within. The key to finding this peace is living in the present moment. The only place where peace truly exists is in the present moment. Moreover, the only way to connect with the present moment is through mindfulness meditation.
Most people cringe when I mention the word ‘meditation’. They get this look of fear on their face, tell me they have tried to meditate once or twice before, and inevitably say things like:
“I couldn’t stop thinking.”
“My mind was driving me crazy. There was no peace anywhere to be found. My mind was thinking more than usual!”
“All I could hear was my heartbeat and it nearly drove me insane. Plus, I kept thinking the same thought repeatedly.”
“I gave up trying to meditate because I couldn’t get my mind to stop thinking. I’m just not cut out for it.”
Friends, allow me to clarify one thing with regard to the mind: the mind is not the enemy. It is the innate function of the mind to think, reason, acquire and apply knowledge. Therefore, when sitting for meditation, the key is not to stop the mind from doing its job, but to ‘Witness’ the mind. The key thing to remember is that the beginner’s goal in meditation is to watch the thoughts that arise in your mind. Simply be aware of the thoughts as they arise and disappear, and do not get ensnared by their drama. Just because you have a thought does not mean that you have to react to it. It is the mind’s job to think, so no matter what, unless you give it some downtime (i.e. meditation) and give it the space to turn in on itself, it will just keep thinking, and thinking, and thinking.
I know from experience that this may not be the easiest concept to grasp. The thought of ‘not being attached to thoughts’ and merely ‘witnessing’ them may seem rather odd, or even impossible. Thoughts come and go; it is as simple as that. As the Buddhists say, just think of them as clouds passing by in the sky. Alternatively, you can think of them like this: imagine that you have just poured yourself a tall glass of seltzer. You stare at the glass and watch as the bubbles at the bottom of the glass rise up, reach the top, hang out there for awhile, and then—POP—they’re gone. This is the way of thoughts: they are pulsations of energy that come and go.
When I say that the mind is not the enemy, I must make one thing clear. If you stay attached to your thoughts 24 hours a day, then the mind does enslave you. You have become a slave to your thoughts. However, if you learn some mindfulness techniques to help you begin a simple meditation practice, you will find that your mind is the vehicle that sets you free. You need your mind for Self-Realization. Your mind takes you to the Truth (peace) within yourself. Your mind is always seeking for something, always attaching itself to some sensory desire. As Osho says in his Book of Secrets, “The mind has to be turned from seeking to nonseeking.” This is done through meditation. The mind stops reacting to the world outside and begins to explore the incredible world within.
In future columns, I will be teaching you mindfulness techniques, simple meditation techniques, as well as sharing with you some important life lessons I have learned on my spiritual journey. For now, I would like to share with you the most simple meditation technique that you can do anywhere.
Find a comfortable position, perhaps sitting cross-legged on the floor with your back straight and your knees supported, or sitting upright on a chair with your feet hip width apart and your arms comfortably positioned at your side. Now, take a deep breath. While breathing in, count to four-- fill your entire lungs with air. Hold the air inside the lungs for a moment, and then slowly exhale—for approximately six to eight counts. Repeat this process three times. Feel as if you are filling a jar with water, and then slowly emptying the jar. This practice will help still the mind.
Close your eyes. Now, breathe naturally, and simply. Sit quietly and focus on your breath, not forcing anything, just watching your breath as it comes in and goes out. If you like, you can even say to yourself ‘breathing in’ on the inhalation, and ‘breathing out’ on the exhalation. Continue this practice for as long as you feel comfortable. If you begin to focus on your mind and become carried away with thinking, that is perfectly okay—your mind is used to being the focus of your attention. Just come back to your breath. Simply breathing in and breathing out.
Again, if you find yourself being enmeshed in your thoughts, please do not beat yourself up, be thankful that you have become aware of being caught up in the thought process and then go back to focusing on the breath.
You can do this exercise with your eyes open, as well. You might want to try it while waiting in line at the bank or the super market, or during commercials while watching TV. You can even do this practice as a walking meditation, being mindful of your breath and your surroundings. Of course, please do not try this or any other meditation while driving.
Until next month, be mindful of your breath as much as possible. The breath is the life force. It is the key to finding the freedom and peace we were born to find. The TRUTH that we are all searching for is closer than you could ever imagine. As Lao Tzu said in the Tao te Ching, “The greatest journey starts with one step”. Consider your new mindfulness breathing exercise your first step to innate freedom, joy, and bliss absolute.
PS HAPPY GURUPURNIMA!!!!
tags: Jaibhakti, Meditation, Bhakti Brophy, Osho, Siddha Yoga