I am not sure about the subtle mind practice; the sound of the crashing waves was soothing; but somehow, my mind kept moving; just like the restless waves, which I found to be somewhat of a distraction. I kept my focus on my breathing; which helped me to clear my mind; but the guided prompts interrupted my stillness…even to the point of startling me once or twice.
When I compare the subtle mind to the loving-kindness practice, I recall how difficult it was for me also to initially engage in the exercise. In the loving-kindness practice, I had to intentionally release distracting thoughts so that I could focus on the suffering of others. Then, I was I was able to experience loving-kindness as I sent out feelings of health and joy to others in exchange for their suffering. I found that the loving-kindness practice allowed me to use my mind to visualize a process as opposed to the subtle mind practice which required focusing on the breath to remain anchored, observing the mind and its distracting thoughts, and trying to release those clinging thoughts…this was a difficult concept to grasp the first time around.
As such, this exercise practice is going to require patience and continued practice in order for me to experience calm-abiding. Maybe I am being too hard on myself, but I could not fathom the concept of witnessing my mind as being still and not visualizing or focusing on an object is not an easy task for me. This is quite frustrating as I frequently engage in yoga poses and guided meditation, which requires deep breathing to keep the mind focused and still. However, breathing in this exercise was more of a tense effort as I followed the prompts. It did not come easy, and I found my breathing to be labored; not all soothing or relaxing. While my body did appear to be calm and relaxed, my mind was on a different plane. I kept wondering if something mystical or mysterious was suppose to happen. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was moving colors, shadows, and shapes. Was this the still part of my mind? In all honesty, whatever distracting thoughts or images appeared in my mind only remained temporary. I literally had to force my attention to my breathing; which happened quite a bit. I admit that I have a long way to go; but at least I am willing to keep trying. This was my first practice; I imagine that each session will get better as time progresses.
What I have discovered from the contemplatives practices is that we do have the ability to tame our mind from its endless chatter. As such, when the mind is calm; the body is able to respond accordingly. Likewise, when we use our breath in a controlled, rhythmic manner, we learn to stabilize our minds and eventually; we find ourselves at a place where we can explore the deeper part of our minds. While I have not experienced the levels of calm-abiding or unity consciousness, I feel them there waiting to be discovered. If I have the ability to instill calmness to my body with rhythmic breathing and focused attention, I can only imagine what other possibilities are available within me.
As such, the mental clutter that bind us to ill-health disappears when our spirits are relaxed and are at peace; and this creates a balance within, which prompts healing and well-being. In any event, I have observed this connection in my life. What I have realized is that I have developed a sense of calmness and awareness in my life. For example, I have noticed that instead of instinctively reacting to stressors, I engage my brain to find a positive outcome as opposed to flying off the handle. In addition, I have learned to reduce stress by being more understanding with my kids as I choose not to have unrealistic expectations of them. Likewise, I find that engaging in mind-body practices, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery visualization, etc., allow me to find quality time to attend to my inner life. The more I attend to my inner life, the more I learn to take control of my health in a positive and creative way. I also believe that being responsible for one’s health does help to alleviate endless suffering and pain. When you take charge of your health, you find your purpose in life as you create a healthier world around you. Therefore, more than ever; we need to use our minds to get us on the path to health and wellness.
Stay healthy and enjoy the rest of your week!