• April 20, 2017

    My issue in this work is that my thinking takes over and dominates. Not thinking that has any real purpose or value but just endless chatter. It’s like a voice in my head that never stops. I don’t even know what it’s saying most of the time.

    This is the basic challenge in any spiritual training. Our head brain has become the ‘thinking’ center. We identify with the little voice in our head, allowing it to assume the role of ‘I’ when it is far too small to carry such a burden and responsibility. Isolated from sensation and feeling, operating on low-wattage mechanical energy, this I rattles on associatively, one thought triggering another. Its compulsive quality comes from its isolation from the wider range of possible experience.

    The first step in dealing with this phenomenon is to bring it to the surface. It is not random. The constant commentary has some thematic continuity…perhaps self-judgment, criticism of others, physical or emotional discomfort and so on. If we catch glimpses of our mental content over time, we should not be surprised to find that it actually forms repeating loops.

    Can you capture enough of what this voice says to enable you to write it down? Putting the ‘vocalizations’ in front of you and making them visual objectifies them, allowing you to break your identification with the voice. The voice has more power to continue if it is hidden in the background. Can you expose it?

    In addition to the content, note the mood. There are likely to be several repeating loops…more than one voice… each depending on a particular mood. The loop and the mood reinforce each other. These loops may even include snatches of music…a specific song that we habitually associate with the mood and the thought-loop.

    What do you mean by mood?

    A mood is an ongoing, sustained sensation/emotion…anxiety, guilt, self-pity, anger…that has been repressed and therefore does not fully discharge. A mood is sustained by circular thinking and posture. Posture is important because it locks breathing into a particular pattern. As we have discussed before, breathing has an enormous impact on emotion and thought. So, what we have is a tightly wound self-perpetuating pattern of thinking, sensing, posture and breath which is difficult to unravel. We cannot simply decide to change our thinking because it is tied in to other factors which also need to shift. To put it simply, our thinking cannot change our thinking.

    You have talked about the importance of the rhythm of breath.

    Yes, but there are many different settings of the breath. It is not simply a right way or a wrong way of breathing. The rhythm of breath should be free to adapt to our engagements. When it cannot shift because of a locked posture and mood, you can impose an artificial rhythm temporarily until the lock is broken. Then allow the breath to assume the pattern that is needed to respond to the needs of the moment. This is one way of dealing with ceaseless head brain chatter. One method would be to breathe in to a count of four, hold to a count of four and breathe out to the same count. Do this four times. Counting is a deliberate redirection of attention. This may free the breath and that will help to break a fixated mood. Singing and chanting are also effective.

    Voluntarily attending to sensations is another way of breaking the chain of circular head brain thinking. Attention is a major power source for thinking, sensing and feeling. Involuntary attention is dragged into sustaining mood and associative thinking. Voluntarizing attention and attaching it to sensation, at least temporarily, can pull the power cord on head brain thinking.

    You can also change your posture in order to unlock and relax head brain thinking. Walking, dancing, tai chi, yoga and other such activities can help to free up fixated thinking by breaking locked postures and shifting the rhythm of the breath.

    These suggestions are mostly what I would call antidotes. They are effective but they operate at the same level as the difficulties they address. They are not transformative. At another time, we can inquire into homeopathic remedies which rely on the law of similar to shift fixations.

    There is another path that may enable you to gain control of thinking. This is the path that leads to the place of no thought. Where is this place to be found? Where attention attends to itself, presence cognizes its own presentness, seeing perceives that it sees and emptiness realizes its innate clarity. Capacity transcends content. We will explore this path at another time.

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  • March 3, 2017

    You frequently mention postures in your discussions about work on self. What is their importance in this work?

    Have you observed your most common postures? Have you noticed that these postures have characteristic imbalances which compensate for each other? When you sit, the same leg crosses over the other, one leg and hip shortening while the opposite ones are lengthened, offset perhaps by contractions in one shoulder and the way you rest one arm while gesturing with the other?

    You slip into these habitual postures very easily, do you not, no awareness required? These postures support the things you do. They are functional. Would it surprise you to know that these postures therefore also have related patterns of thought? Have you noticed that each posture with its specific muscular contractions has a corresponding way of thinking about yourself, a set of actions and moods which are possible in that posture and which you are programmed to reproduce? It is not easy to see this linkage but impartial observation can open this to you over time.

    A skilled physical trainer would be able to see that your standing and sitting postures are skewed, some muscles working while others do not, leaving you to fight the effects of gravity in a less than ideal alignment that limits your actions and the awareness of yourself and the space you inhabit.

    This is the organism in which you wish to have voluntary attention and presence.

    We have spoken many times about the physical organism being a possible apparatus for the production of higher energies needed to awaken from sleep. The base of the triad of energies needed for transformation of self is sensitive energy which is used functionally to produce sensation and to notice what is happening to oneself. Habitual postures do not require and therefore do not use sensitive energy. They occur automatically, using automatic energy, which is why we do not even notice them. There is nothing there to work with, energetically speaking. What is needed is sensitive energy which attention can transform into consciousness. Sensitive energy is natural to the organism if it is not lost through habituation.

    The link between physical posture on the one hand, and thoughts and moods on the other, is in part via the impact of posture on breath. If breath is constricted and channelled always in the same ways, not only is the physical organism starved of energy but also the range of possible experience is greatly limited. The rhythm, length, volume and balance of the breath have enormous physical and psychological consequences but changing the breath is not possible without deprogramming habitual posture.

    It therefore stands to reason that working with a skilled trainer or a real yoga instructor can be useful, to reprogram muscles and shift postures, to become more sensitive and balanced, thereby increasing the range of possible experience and enhancing the possibility of transforming energies. Unfortunately, it is very rare to find competent assistance.

    What can you accomplish on your own? You could observe that you habitually engage unnecessary muscular tensions. Noticing and releasing unnecessary tensions is always a useful exercise. Releasing improves with practice. Energy is saved and breath is more accommodated, less restricted. Small but incremental gains can be had in this way.

    Here is another exercise. Choose a posture you wish to work with. Every time you find yourself in this posture, deliberately change it in the same specific way. Can you notice which muscles are less able to co-operate with this repositioning? Can you discover how to enable these muscles to work more effectively? It may be that they are not themselves the original problem but rather that they are overcompensating for muscles that have ceased to perform their function. Slowly but surely you may be able to erase habitual postures.

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