Most spiritual traditions have a focus whether by meditation, contemplation, prayer, or even physical self-harm on being present in the moment.
Buddhism has exported to the West the idea of ‘mindfulness’ – “To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner”- from Psychology Today
Gurdjieff an esoteric teacher from 100yrs back who had travelled to Tibet and many other Asiatic countries brought to the West the concept of self-remembering to which end he focussed on complex exercises to root one to the moment.
Why? Why go to such lengths to focus people on the present? If you were to ask most people, they would think it quite normal their experience of being in the present. Yes, a bit forgetful at times no doubt, but nothing much to be concerned about. How many times have you thought I will now go and do this only to get there and, much later, remembered that you had totally forgotten your intention?
Unfortunately, there is a mystery to human beings to which we are largely ignorant, essentially because our consciousness is fractured. The problem is manifold, for we are composed of three brains in one – physical, emotional and mental. Our physical brain is capable of repetitive physical movements such as eating, driving, cycling, martial arts etc., without the participation of our emotions and with just a little nudge from our minds.
It is that very quality of physical repetition, without our having to continually focus, that is so useful to navigating the world. Unfortunately, it can also send us to sleep and disconnect us from ourselves, especially when we are emotionally / mentally troubled. When Gurdjieff said “man is asleep” this is what he was referring to.
By the same token, a singer, dancer, musician etc., who stands out from the crowd is one who displays the congruity of body, mind, and emotions in their chosen Art. Their inner connection calls out to us, and we respond in kind.
Many of us have chased so-called spiritual development, not realizing that true development begins with being present in our lives with all our three brains active and working in concert. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against us and the pitfalls are many.
Essentially, we can break these pitfalls down to a lack of resilience in experiencing intensity in any of our three brains. Such as physical discomfort or pain, emotional intensity and/or mental conflict between opposing beliefs.
Unfortunately, our present education is largely not equal to the task, since it seems to me that rather than bring our three centres together it is designed to split us internally that we may be compliant and submissive to authority.
Experiments have been done with children (the marshmallow Experiment – Instant Gratification, see below), where the children are told you can have one ‘sweetie’ now but if you can hold until I come back you will be given two.
That process of delay and inner struggle when you want that instant gratification builds inner stamina at a mental/emotional level. I am not implying that is all there is, it is just an example. After all, how many of us have got that inner resilience to delay instant gratification and perhaps realize we don’t actually need to indulge? Advertising relies on brand recognition and impulse buying.
To be “mindful” implies observation of our thoughts, our emotions and or feelings, as well as our physical bodies. Of itself, it is a wonderful exercise, although it is just the beginning. For example: observing my thought processes is essential if I am to realize I am not my thoughts.
However, my automatic thoughts fulfil the function of keeping uncomfortable emotions suppressed and are designed to maintain my indoctrination and conditioning. My beliefs are so intertwined with how I perceive myself that I do not question them, hence I am unlikely to go much beyond them.
My emotions are rooted in fear. When I observe myself, I accept my emotional state(s) as is, and this is important, to begin with. When my thoughts are incessantly chattering as a result of unresolved conflict/ misunderstanding, I want to go beyond observation, to questioning those very thoughts that are glossing over and discouraging me from experiencing the raw intensity of my emotion. For this is where growth begins.
Often times, we have physical pains and discomfort, usually, this has arisen because we have not experienced the conflict between our thoughts and our emotions and the tension is now in our bodies. Our minds will, though mental chatter disassociate us from our bodies, we are in a sense dis-embodied, our three brains are not enmeshed and working together.
Our Three Brains
Each centre has a different challenge, and they all affect each other.
When our heads are filled with rules and regulations we end up censoring and judging our thoughts, emotions, even physical movements and actions, what is worse we inevitably are unaware that we are judging others and putting them down.
Our self censoring can be so pervasive that occasionally over the years, I have heard people say I can’t imagine, I have no imagination.
This is a huge challenge to humanity, it is our birthright to have an active imagination! Look at the way children play and make-believe. It is taken away from us through ‘education’ and compliance. We end up censoring the spontaneous images in our heads, whilst we longingly admired those who display such imagination so easily.
When it comes to emotions the thoughts in our heads are making judgements as to which are, or not, acceptable, we all have one or more emotions that we struggle to express. Inevitably these will be rooted in one or more traumatic events from our childhood that we have now forgotten. These hidden emotions waiting beneath the surface layers of our consciousness pull the strings of our personality and are responsible for a great deal of our ill health and, affect our relationships with ourselves and others.
Our physical bodies are the anchor to the present moment, without awareness of our bodies we are cast adrift from the world around us as all our experiences are second hand interpretations via the words in our heads. Our bodies also need proper food (not to be found in factory made produce), muscle, and heart strengthening exercises as well as stretching.
All life on this earth knows and seeks what it needs to eat, except us. For some mysterious reason, we need to be told what is good for us, and then we rammed it down our children’s throats.
Our emotional body needs to be most of the time in idling mode, think of it like having a surplus of money in the bank, there for essentials, but not to be frittered away. Our bodies create hormones from food and nutrients. Adrenalin is one of the more important ones in terms of activity. Over revving our emotions on an ongoing basis uses up our reserves of this precious hormone prematurely. Drinking coffee or similar beverages robs our adrenals and puts us in debt to our hormonal system.
Most people experience their sense of self in their heads because they have so much tension and uncomfortable ness in their bodies due to suppressed emotions. In those moments when all three are working together in harmony, we will discover a new place from which to experience life that supersedes them – our Hearts. Ultimately, we are aiming not for mindfulness (the seat of ego) but for Heart-ness—the seat of the soul.
About 41% of the 2/3rds of humanity ready to wake up to themselves have a preponderance of emotional damage and will always have a tendency to disassociate from their emotions. About 17% will never fully connect with their bodies, the other 42 % will struggle with and are unlikely to be able to free themselves from some of their religious belief systems. ~Charley
I need to say more about religious beliefs. The focus on Jesus is good. He exemplifies what is loving, caring, forgiving and non-judgemental. The focus on God as a Power to be feared IS NOT. This is a perversion of the truth by ego. GOD ‘IS’ love, acceptance, compassion, understanding, there is no judgement, and so –no hell or heaven. There is no immortality for good behaviour, for the body ego will die and be part of the soil once more. The soul within us is already an intrinsic part of The Maker of All.
So I will end up with this note or map to self-liberation from the tyranny of our minds. Pain, whether physical emotional or mental, is like a river that needs to flow. Most of our health (physical/emotional/mental) problems arise because we do the opposite, we dam up/arrest the emotional flow and mental contradictions. These build tension/pain in the body, and we can’t bear that either, so we lock up the house and throw away the key and move to the attic (our minds).
The dilemma for many of us is the accumulated emotional baggage that clouds our perceptions and experience of life. I assure you that although we are all irreparably damaged, if we can clear the decks enough to connect with our hearts and generate feelings of self-love and acceptance, we will rise like birds through the air .
The body -I have previously written articles that give exercises and meditations to connect with one’s body, one’s breathing and the release of tensions in the body.
The mind – Tricky bugger, it will always be there, you will have an inspiration, idea, concept, and it will verbalize for you and assert itself as though it is your real essence. There is little to be done until you reach your heart, for now: a) stop lying to yourself 100% and to others 95% of the time. b) stop judging yourself as though you are unworthy or physically unattractive.
The emotions – We all have damaged aspects of our psyche, for example I had an extremely damaging childhood and I survived by shutting off my emotions. My growth was to learn about emotions within me, but even today when emotionally triggered, will go away and find peace by focussing on a game to distract myself. However, those emotions still need to be experienced, otherwise, they accumulate and block the pathways.
I spent years meditating ever morning, allowing my emotional pain to surface and experiencing the increasing intensity within my body. This invariably gave rise to intense but satisfying crying and at times involuntary shaking. Slowly but surely a day came when access to my heart got progressively easier.
We need to focus on a daily routine whereby we spend twenty minutes or so connecting with and energetically opening our kinaesthetic sense of our lower abdomen. Note how we distract ourselves from experiencing the accumulated hurts from our past.
Cultivate sitting quietly listening to sounds of nature / classical music. Open down to your emotions and sense the music with them. Should they arise, allow the tears to flow, experience the intensity with the whole of your body, don’t hold back. You don’t need a reason or a label for your emotional experience.
I began by exploring mindfulness and the recognition that self awareness of our mental emotional and physical processes are indispensable but ask yourself. Where is the centre of my awareness within my body? For only by marrying mindfulness with our hearts do we truly progress. And, to be within our hearts we need to cultivate Self-love non judgement and acceptance of the truth of being human – We are all damaged and some of it has become hardwired into our psyches.