19 December 2017

mindfulness & it's difficulties

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I have been reticent to broach the subject of mindfulness...

It has become the new Holy Grail of the affluent parts of the world, and the new Holy Grail of spirituality.

But is it? I think not. Interestingly, some yoga teachers who have experienced the Deeper States of Being, are a bit derisive of mindfulness, whereas there are yoga teachers (whom I personally suspect have just scratched the surface of Deep Spirituality), who like to teach and preach mindfulness. After all, that's what it's all about - right?

It seems that there are a few 'understandings' of what mindfulness actually is.

Awareness of.... everything

One is to be aware of everything. Absolutely everything. What you are experiencing through the senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, any physical feeling such as the wind touching you. Plus what you are thinking, and what you are emotionally feeling.

All at the same time. Total information overload.

This is simply too much to process at once, and I have seen people who have learnt mindfulness technique in this manner, get completely overwhelmed and distressed. I feel that it is damaging: it contributes to a restless and worried state of mind.

Or, awareness of your thoughts

There is also the mindfulness technique whereby one is aware of their own thoughts mostly, but also feelings. I have seen people get very distressed by this. Why?

It is helpful to understand that out minds are always busy. It simply is not possible to be aware of all of our thoughts. and to give serious credence to everything that you are thinking (and also feeling) Although I always noticed how the emphasis until recently, in the yoga world, including the Big Ashrams of India, was to do with being aware of the mental activity.

Over decades of being involved with yoga, I soon began to feel that this also made people disturbed, and yes, I too bought into it for a few years. But when I looked around me, and at myself, I started to get dis-quietened at what I saw and felt.

I saw people, myself included, have great problems with being disturbed by lots of thoughts, and I can tell you that focusing on your thoughts... makes more come... faster. Again, agitated brain wave patterns, which make us restless.

"To block the patterns of consciousness is yoga": Patanjali, 2nd sutra.

How can we block those mental patterns of consciousness? When our minds are agitated, our thoughts go around and around, like sad little mice running on a wheel, unable to get off.

What is a quick, easy, yogic way to do this? We are after peaceful brain waves ... caused by the slowing down of the mental and emotional fluctuations. Which then gives us space. Space between the "bits" of mental activity. And a quietening of the emotional fluctuations.

To put it simply, this mental activity ranges from agitated with lots of thoughts, through to lesser mental activity, and corresponding states of peace and happiness. Our feelings can range from intensely difficult through to sublime happiness.

How to slow down our agitated mind

The quickest, easiest, method of quieting mind and emotions, is to be aware of the breath. Then start to slow it down. Counting the breath is often helpful, especially when you count backwards, as this automatically takes our main brain activity away from a disturbed area, to the pre-frontal cortex where we have more discernment.

Other tools with the breath, are to completely relax on the exhale. The exhale can be longer or about the same count, as the inhale.

And then bring in a minute pause after inhale and after exhale, so that the breath is held in, or out, during the small pauses. This is miraculous for creating spaces between the thoughts, and also for calming the emotions.

More to follow on mindfulness......                                       



1 December 2017

Meditation and Pranayama

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A lovely breathing and meditation practice

This post is in response to some facebook comments about my previous post, in particular, about meditation, where I gave a link to a breathing and meditation technique in my blog.

The practice in this link is amazing for combining pranayama (yoga breathing practices) and meditation, in one technique.

Why is it so amazing? For several reasons:
  • it quickly quietens the mind. Anyone who has tried to meditate with one's mind going at a frantic pace, will know how difficult it is to meditate under these conditions. 
  • it balances the flow of breath in both nostrils. The technique causes the breath in both nostrils flow in unison with each other.
  • our mental faculties focus. Our mind stops wandering.
Why do we need our mind quietened?

I feel that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about The Mind. It seems to have become The Holy Grail of Yoga.  But, what most perceive of as their mind, is but a small part of the different layers, realms, and aspects of what we can put under the Umbrella of "mind".  Suffice to say, that when the mind is restless, our brain waves are moving through the brain in a way that we cannot relax. We cannot come to one-pointedness as one should be in meditation.

But mostly, there is identification with everything that we perceive of as "oneself": our body, our thoughts, and our feelings. Plus our likes and dislikes. Although all of these are part of our human journey in a lifetime, they are only a small part of oneself, and they obscure our Higher Consciousness. They obscure our True Self.

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Why do we need the flow of breath in both nostrils to be in unison?

Each of our nostrils relates to a brain hemisphere:

  • left nostril   - right hemisphere
  • right nostril - left hemisphere
Each hemisphere usually has different functions. There are always exceptions. And generally, one nostril is predominant at any given time, usually for about 90 minutes. Each nostril flow also has different functions.

There is a third, most important nostril flow.

And when both nostrils are flowing in unison, this is when the third flow takes place. This third flow automatically happens when we are deep in meditation. So, to get this going before meditation, means that we have a "head start" on going deep into the Inner Realms. It is a very relaxed, highly energised state of being.

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Where does this energy come from?

Mainly, it comes from the life-force, the prana, within the breath. But a big secret is that, when you are  easily able to slip into the Deeper Realms, your spiritual energy seems to increase when you are in those realms. Actually, it is these realms that we have that energy, that energy already exists inside of you, hidden. 

But we do need, for quite some time, to do something that helps us, in meditation initially, to build up the prana. Our brain is working when we are meditating, and it needs fuel. The two most important fuels are oxygen and water.

Initially, we do need extra oxygen supplies, for prana, to enable us to move into the different realms of our being, in meditation. Over the years, one becomes able to slip in and out of the meditation state, without extra oxygen.

The best thing to do, to build up prana, is breathing exercises. Most of them are specific, they have specific purposes. But if you can only do one, do the one that we have been talking about above, or, the alternate nostril breath.

Why do we need our mental faculties to focus?

Surprisingly, our brains use up more energy when our minds are drifting. Although there can be a lot of drifting in meditation, having awareness is the goal. I hesitate to use the word mindfulness, because true meditation is by far above and beyond the parts of mind, that are used for mindfulness. Mindfulness also utilises the senses, whereas the State of Meditation does not. One is in a state of sensory withdrawal, that is to say that the senses are inactive during real meditation. However, this can take a while to happen, and doing a meditation practice regularly, is the way to get us there.

Personally, I do know that the correct way of breathing in meditation will get you great results from your meditation practice. For those who don't know how to do this - try mindfulness, if you know how to do it.