Thursday, April 02, 2015

Going deeper into relaxation

In the last post, I rambled on about getting relaxed. The are many stages to getting deeply, deeply relaxed - getting past nuisance thoughts is just the beginning. So, let's assume:

- you are relaxed
- you follow a breath in, you follow it out, you don't get distracted
- you rest between thoughts in an inviting sense of peace
- you can follow ten cycles of breathing with ease
- you are maintain an awareness of the breath in the whole body

You have options in this position. You can carry on just following the breath with the intention of letting - just keep letting go - until the body starts disappearing and the mind starts expanding. Or, you can tune into the sense of pleasantness that comes with relaxation. The in breath is pleasant because it brings a sense of energy, the out breath is pleasant because it brings an immensely feeling of relaxation and the pause in between is deeply peaceful. This sense of pleasure will grow the more you focus on it and it will feel like you are giving yourself an internal mind massage. You will receive pleasure in the body and the pleasure in the mind that knows pleasure. And so on. It builds into an epic pleasure fest.

Then, when you've had enough you might wonder: what is pleasure anyway?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Blockages to pure relaxation

Relaxation is the key to feeling good but learning how to relax is a tricky business. You could try to relax right now but it's not so easy - things get in the way. These things are generally intractable thoughts (anger, wanting, aversion, etc) or the idea that you should be doing something else. (Buddhism wraps these blockages up as the five hindrances). However, they are thoughts that lead us down a garden path that never ends.

These thoughts block relaxation and we feel impossible to stop them but this is just an illusion and a cognitive distortion. In fact, they end very quickly if we gain the right perspective and turn our minds towards something more wholesome. The general sequence goes something like this:

- we are stressed, we realise we are stressed and we cannot relax
- we take some deep breaths
- we consciously turn our mind to focus on breathing
- we breathe in, we breathe out, we rest in between
- we feel the mind pulling us away, we feel tension in the body supporting it
- we breathe in, we breathe out, we relax with it
- the mind will try to pull us away, it is kind of a habit
- we may count each breath
- we relax into the body using the breath to open up a space
- we feel the breath entering our body from head to toes
- we breathe in, we breathe out, we relax with it

That's how it begins. Holding our mind on breath until we are ready to relax into it. Then the pleasantness arises and we are ready to deeper.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Relaxation is the key to happiness

This is just a reminder. Are you relaxed? Are you ever relaxed?

If you master relaxation, then you are most of the way there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Different thoughts have different consequences

We are all probably familiar with the technique of distracting ourselves with some activity to avoid something painful in our lives - perhaps we are facing social misery of some sort. We give the brain a less stressful thought process to keep it occupied and it feels nice not to think about the other crap in our life. So, if we take a little step back and see what's going on, we find that emotionally charged thoughts about things we cannot solve place our bodies and minds into a stressful place. The unfixable nature of the situation churns us up - not nice. On the flip side, thoughts about activities where we do reach closure - perhaps we plan an activity, or we review something we have done successfully - these thoughts bring a sense of openness to our whole being.

The next step is realising that all thoughts are transient things and there is no imperative to think a particular thought. We can choose which way we direct our mind. Perhaps this seems like an impossible task, but all it takes is a little practice and a realisation that our thoughts are not entirely beyond our control.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Between the body and the thinking mind

There is the body. There are the thoughts. Then there is the space between them where there are no discursive thoughts but we are fully alive in our bodies. This space is HUGE. If we spend enough time here we start to become indifferent to the thoughts and compulsions we previously had. We become calm, we become contented, we feel good.

Now, we wonder why. Why did no-one explain this? Then we start looking and it seems that there is a huge amount of stuff out there that explains exactly this, and then we realise that wisdom is just not getting through. It's there but only if we want it ...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The multi-modal brain personality

I didn't quite know what to call this post, but I was in the library the other day reading a medical neuroscience tome and it was saying that different parts of the brain did different things - nothing new there ... Then it explained some cases where the left and right hemispheres had had their connections severed so that the left side of the brain could not talk to the right side of the brain (and vice versa). It then said that these people had two separate self identities. So left brain would decide to put some gloves but the right brain decided to take them off again. Left brain was enjoying reading a book (because that's what it's for) but right brain was bored (because it did not participate in reading).

Clearly, the idea that we are one person is more complicated than we might think. We are many different people competing for the right to be in charge. We are a fragmented whole.

Anyway, I thought that was quite interesting. What's even more interesting is that you can live quite successfully without being anybody - just let your body do it's thing all by itself.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meditation reveals the flaws but is also generally blissful

I used to be a miserable man and I still am to a certain extent. Life seemed like an endless stream of broken promises, but let's not go there. Instead, let's focus on the upside - life is full of tremendous potential to be completely satisfying. How do we glimpse this satisfaction? Well, meditation is kind of a gateway. Unfortunately, meditation takes us on a journey and part of that journey is to see the flaws of what we have become - all the mean things, the greed, the hatred, the disappointment, the longing. Not so brilliant. These are the underlying currents that bring us unhappiness. They are the conflict, the root of our automatic thoughts. They are not us, just what we have learnt. If we persist with meditation we can get underneath this layer of  **** and start to reveal the true nature of our being, which is pretty decent. There is nothing wrong with us. We are blissful, at home. We have our slippers on and the dog is fed. You get the idea.

If we are lucky meditation gives us some super wonderful experiences right from the get go, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Why settle for a quick hit when there's a whole continent of niceness just over the hill? Put away the slippers and strap on a pair of wings instead.