19 December 2017
mindfulness & it's difficulties
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......