Mind Stuff

A simple truth is that whatever our minds focus on, tend to expand and grow. Instead of thinking that we are worthy, confident and loveable human beings, we often focus on our insecurities and perceived shortcomings, and as we do that, we grow them into monstrous proportions. Needless to say, a single thought can often spiral out of control and leave a path of destruction in its tornado-like wake. As the mind starts to obsess about something, the emotions are aroused, and the moment they get involved our thinking rapidly starts to spiral downwards.

And so starts our love-hate relationship with the mind. When we become aware of the negative thinking patterns we have created over many years of habitual thinking, we beat ourselves up for being useless and without willpower when we are trying to force our minds into thinking uplifting and positive thoughts. We try to ‘fix’ the problem in a week or two, but something that has been in the making for years, can hardly be rectified within such a short period of time. We have to accept that it is not so easy to simply change the way we think; and doing battle with the mind will get us nowhere near where we would like to go. Change can only come when we make peace with our minds, and understand that we are not our thoughts. Thoughts come and go, and by not attaching to them or identifying ourselves through them, we can start to free ourselves from enslavement.

A mindful practice of yoga where we slowly break the bonds of our thinking patterns is the best way I know of to befriend your mind and to stop treating it as if it is the enemy. Try the following: lie on your back in corpse pose (feet more than hip-width apart; arms away from the body; palms facing up) and close your eyes. Focus your mind on your breath and the sensations of air moving in and out through your nostrils. Gently start to deepen your inhalation and exhalation until you have created a deep, slow rhythm of breathing that still feels natural. After a minute or so of this, start to focus just on your exhalation. Every time you exhale, feel how your whole body is relaxing as it is slowly letting go of all physical tension. Keep your mind on this task for as long as you need to start feeling relaxed, before focusing exclusively on your inhalation. This time, with every inhalation, you should connect with a sense of peacefulness, calmness and complete relaxation. Again keep your mind on this task for as long as it is necessary to feel calm, peaceful and completely relaxed.

What you will find is that your body starts to move into a state of complete surrender and deep relaxation. As you keep your mind on your breath, you will also find that your thinking will slow down as you draw your mind into your body. See if you can stay in this relaxed state for about ten minutes. Every time you become aware of thoughts, instead of berating yourself, or forcing yourself not to think, you simply acknowledge the thought before allowing it to slip away, while you bring your mind back to your breath. Inhaling a sense of peacefulness and exhaling all tension. If you repeat this every day, you will eventually notice that the pauses between your thoughts become longer and longer, and your mind calmer.

You will also start to realise that you are calmer during the day, more focused, more aware of your breath and its ability to influence your thoughts, and able to consciously choose a state of peacefulness when life becomes stressful. You will also find that the general quality of your thinking will improve. And so, when you choose to focus your mind on connecting with the peacefulness and calmness within you through your breath, you will grow and expand these, and in the process become more centred and in touch with your true nature.

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