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The Science

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The Brain is like the body's own personal computer. It calculates everything about this world and attempts to put it into a story that is acceptable to you. Everyone's brain calculates the information differently which makes you unique, but because of this, everyone's version of life will have its own individual perspective; none of them exactly the same.

 

There is a part of the brain called the parietal lobe. This is the area of the brain that relates to sensory information that helps us to form our sense of who we are. The information such as taste, temperature and touch are mixed together here and processed to form our self-awareness and our version of who we are in this world.

 

Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania has been scanning the brains of religious people for more than a decade. From Franciscan nuns to Tibetan Buddhists. In his research, he found that this part of the brain in people who meditate goes dark.

 

So we now know that the brains of people who meditate fundamentally alter, the brain scans prove this. So if meditation can change the development of the brain, what else about our world can be measured and changed? Again, do not be put off by the word meditation. It is just a word and we will look at this again later.

 

If you need more scientific proof, then I urge you to look at Andrew Newberg's research. For what we are going to look at today can change your life. But if you need more science for reassurance, there are many case studies available that will prove this. Then once satisfied with your scientific backdrop, you will be able to read on with a greater belief in what is about to be revealed to you.

 

But in reality, both can be pretty shaky in their reliable conclusions as whilst ‘Science’ is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work. It is also true that by this definition, science aims for measurable results through testing and analysis, however, it is also subject to change based on new evidence or reinterpretation of existing evidence.

The Three Vessels

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As you get on with your everyday life and face the many challenges that it throws at you, there is no doubt there will be situations that will confuse and frustrate you. After all, overcoming these challenges is why we are here. But just for a moment, imagine your journey through your day as being a boat in the middle of an ocean. Within that picture there would be three main elements:

 

  • The boat

  • The ocean

  • The air surrounding the two

 

The boat is your protection on the ocean. It keeps everything out, and protects you from the outside elements, and like the boat, most of the time we can cope with our surroundings.  But when the seas start to swell, and the winds start to blow, we battle down the hatches and withdraw to that place of safety within the boat feeling anxious and torn as we wait for the storm to calm down.

 

We rarely seem to recognise that within these moments of fear, that the elements battering against us are not what they seem to be. They are not there to beat us at all, but are there to guide us. It sounds strange doesn't it? But if we can only begin to separate these three elements and understand that they are not one picture, but three different elements within the same picture, we can then learn to see life in a whole new light and understand its motivations more clearly.

 

If we learn how to do this, rather than seeing a picture of a boat being battered by the stormy weather, we would see a vessel being moved from one place to another, guided by the air and supported by the sea.

We would no longer be battered by fear and insecurity within our physical vessel. We would be excited by the movement from one place to another, secure in the knowledge that wherever we end up, it will be a better place for our self-development than where we were, despite the rough journey.

 

So as far as self-development is concerned, the boat would represent the body, the ocean would represent your mind, and the air would represent the spirit.

 

So let's try to understand these three vessels better and uncover their meaning.

The Mind

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Be in no doubt... anxiety traps you in a prison, but it is one of your own making. Close your eyes for a moment and listen to the thoughts running through your head at this very second. Become aware of all that is going on. Now, try to stop each thought and clear your mind so there is nothing going on in there.

 

Notice how quickly as one thought stops, another one will jump in to replace it. As the next thought jumps into your head, try and stop that one. Just sit there for a few minutes and see how long you are able to think of nothing before another thought or image jumps into your head replacing the one you've tried to stop.

 

You see, the mind is like a child, constantly demanding your attention and forever pulling on your sleeve if it feels like it's being ignored. The mind is forever craving information, asking questions, making lists and creating jobs for you to complete. It will also throw tantrums if it ever feels you're shutting it out.

 

The reason for this is that your mind is part of the physical world, it works with the brain and receives human education, and like anything in the physical world one day it will die. So like most things that live in a world of mortality, it fears its own end so it will shout as loud as it can to prove that it is still alive.

 

But it's these same thoughts that cause us harm, as they only exist to stimulate the material world. They have no function outside of it. If all you ever do is communicate with your mind, then you will be susceptible to paranoia, self-doubt, and insecurity. Your mind will try to keep you engaged with these feelings at any cost, even if it has to lie to you.

 

In order that these three vessels can work together in harmony, we need to be able to split them up like we would three fighting children.

 

Gandhi said: "The definition of happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

It is that knot that appears in our stomachs, or that rising rage from within that is stimulated when these three things are not in balance with each other. How many times have you left a situation saying ‘I wish I’d said that’ or, why didn’t I think of saying that then?’

To create balance between these conflicting states, like your learning to become a teacher, requires work, discipline, and sometimes a new way of thinking to create a space of calm that you can function within without constantly feeling anxious and under attack.

It's this same harmony we must learn to introduce to these three vessels.

The Body

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The Body is the most obvious thing to you in our physical world. It can be seen, and it can be touched, and whilst we can spend our time in material education keeping it healthy, it is vulnerable to the workings of the mind which healthy eating cannot resolve alone. If you cannot calm down the thoughts of the mind, then the excess activity that is happening in there will be transferred to the body, and then the body's anxiety will kick in.

 

The body will react when there is an overwhelming amount of action going on in the mind. The mind shouts to be heard by the body because the body lives in the material world, in material education, and it too fears death. The mind knows this. The mind also knows that if it shouts loud enough the body will answer, and then together in their shared fear of dying, they will trap you in the material world and stop you from moving forward.

 

Think about what happens if you put your hand into hot water? The body reacts instinctively to physical threat and pulls away, it then stores that information for a later date so it can stop you doing it again. The body and mind utilize fear to protect you when they feel that they are in danger. The problem is they feel like they are in danger most of the time. The danger however is rarely real, but if provoked by an overactive mind, then the threat feels very real indeed and will lead to paranoia and insecurity.

 

So for a moment just close your eyes, but this time only focus your attention on your body. Notice that if you allow thoughts to come into your mind, your body will react to them. So if you think of someone who you miss, someone who is no longer with you, if you allow your thoughts to focus on this person, your body will react with sadness. If you think about a phobia, spiders, snakes, being locked in a cupboard, your body will react with fear. These are both material actions that provoke a reaction. What your mind creates, your body will react to. But if you empty your mind of the thoughts, this action is disturbed. Your body can no longer complete the cycle and it has to become calm. It may take a while to be calm, but it will become calm.

 

So how do we utilise this?

 

If a thought comes into our head that starts to hurt us or upset us, the natural reaction is to cut the thought out, or baton down the hatches and go inside our boat. If we do this, we satisfy the fight between mind and body, but we remain in the same place, and sometimes it's a place of pain. What we need to do is stop the fight and break the cycle.

 

Go back to your thoughts and identify the ones that your body reacts painfully to, but this time, don't try and cut the thought out, instead, focus on the body and identify where the physical pain is happening. Be totally aware of the pain in your body and then, ignore the thought, and see what happens to the body.

 

At first, the pain in the body will swell and increase, but then providing you are only focusing on the body and ignoring the thought, the emotional anxiety will peak, but then it will slowly disappear because it can't survive without being fed by the thought.

 

Now I don't suggest for one moment that you indulge straight away in your most upsetting moments in your life. That would be like jumping off the top diving board when you've just learnt to swim breaststroke.

 

Practice with smaller things. Start to recognise the difference between your thoughts and your body's reaction to them and separate the two. Fill your mind with specific thoughts. See how the body reacts and then focus only on the body and ignore the thought. Try filling your mind with colour and see how your body reacts to that. Feel how your body reacts to different colours.

 

With practice you will learn to separate the two and with it, control the anxiety of the body.

 

Abdu'l Baha once said " When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love."

 

This ability to be able to activate thought replacement is not something we are naturally born with; it is a skill that must be learnt and nurtured. In order to deal with anxiety, we must learn a new methodology of repositioning ourselves outside of the construct that our life experience and surrounding circumstances have placed upon us.

The Spirit

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The spirit or soul or source of creativity, or whatever you decide you want to call it, is eternal and it has no fear. It exists in a place that overlooks the mind and the body. Confusion is only present in your life when the Mind, Body, and Spirit are seen as one vessel. If you can stop thoughts plaguing your mind, then you will be able to calm the pains and anxieties of the body. When the mind and the body are calm, this is when you can communicate with spiritual education.

 

It is in this state where you will be able to receive pure messages and inspiration, and not vain imaginings that are given off by the fight between the ego of the mind, and its fear of death along with the mortal body.

 

This is why the emptying of the mind in order that the body can become calm is so important. It is this calm state that is the beginning of what people term as meditation. In this calmness you will be able to access what some call an enlightened state and others call inspiration.

 

A Buddhist student once told his master that whilst meditating that night, he had seen the Buddha. The master replied, "Don't worry, he will go away in time."

 

Of course, the master was not for one moment being disrespectful, but only pointing out that the Buddha was a thought created by the mind, and it would be that very thought that would stop the student reaching an enlightened state. Remember, thoughts will always try to trick you because they need you. But you do not need them.

Fear and Anxiety

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When fear steps in, anxiety closely follows. It is important to understand what fear is and how it manifests itself within your life. If you can learn to dilute or conquer your fear, then in turn you control your anxiety.

 

From ancient teachings to modern day film scripts all agree, that danger is real, but fear is something we create. It is so important that you get your head around this. Just think about it for a moment as you are sitting there reading these words. Everything you fear at this very second hasn't happened yet. Everything you fear is in the future, therefore it doesn't exist, it is only the Mind that brings it into the present for consideration.

 

There is a process that happens during change, this process varies in intensity depending on how severe the change is, but the process remains the same. The first stage is denial, "I don't even want to think about it." you do not want to accept what is happening because you know that if your mind starts processing the information, then all anxiety kicks in. So it feels healthier to ignore it, but life will not allow you to stay in a place of denial forever. You can choose to move on, or circumstance will force you to move on.

 

We then start processing the information with the mind buzzing and fear starts to enter because of the overactive mind. What happens if I can't deal with the change? What happens if it goes wrong? How can I survive in this new situation? It is here where the anxiety kicks in, as the mind starts to anticipate things that haven't even happened yet, various differing outcomes and none of them helpful.

 

Frustration and anger will then follow as the mind starts to play its tricks and the body is taken into anxiety mode. If you allow the process to build, ultimately you are taken to a place of low energy and possibly depression.

 

Through the whole process of change, it is important to calm the mind in order that you get a clearer perspective of what is actually going on in the real world, and not the one that has been created by the mind.

 

Remember, everything you fear has happened yet, therefore your fears are illusions created by you, and you alone.

The Secret of Managing Anxiety

The secret of how to begin managing anxiety is firstly to recognise the three vessels and separate them. Secondly, we must then calm our thoughts in order that we can escape from our illusionary fears which in turn creates more anxiety. This place of calm exists and is accessible by all, if it didn't exist then how could it be measured on a brain scan?

 

It doesn't matter who we are, or how we present ourselves to the world, everything ultimately is transparent. Every person on this planet battles with the same emotional issues that underlie the physical fight between the mind and the body which causes our insecurity.

 

So if you are feeling that you are alone with this, you are wrong. You are travelling a journey that all of us are travelling. But the journey is disguised behind our fear of revealing ourselves to the world, and then not being accepted for who we are.

 

The main challenge is to accept yourself first and understand that you are perfect for what you are here to achieve, and nobody can ever change that or take it away from you.

 

Understand that the anxiety in all our lives is created by ourselves and not by others. The mind will try to blame others, so you don't look at yourself. By distracting you to blame others it prevents you from escaping from the prison it has created for you. It wants to keep you in a place of fear, beginning to relieve anxiety is to recognise this.

 

The mind doesn't want you to be free because it fears its own death. It will fill your head with doubt and suspicion whenever you get close to an opportunity of seeing things clearly.

 

Be conscious of separating these three vessels and practice whenever you can. Freeing yourself from this constant struggle and destructive thought process will allow the positive change into your life that you deserve.

 

Never forget that you are the one that instructs your life and all your surroundings; not the other way round, and believing in that is truly the Secret of Life.

Mindfulness

As teachers we are very lucky, we are surrounded by others who seek knowledge. Even if that knowledge is in a different chose field of study, the desire to both seek and deliver remains the same.

 

We are all aware of meditation, some of us turned off by the word because we think it's complicated or something only mystical people do. But in some respects, we all do it, just at different rates. Every year we will all try to take a vacation because we instinctively know that our minds need to slow down. Taking a break or a soak in a hot bath is a form of meditation, and we all do that.

 

True meditation, however, is about stopping all thoughts and calming the mind so the body can be completely free from distraction and anxiety.  For most of us though, that would be like trying to stop a speeding train with your hand. So with this next stage many of us need help. 'Nine Ways to Touch the Soul' and 'Meditation Naked' was created for that very reason and in our next steps we will visit both.

 

'Meditation Naked' begins the process by taking the body to a state of relaxation in order that it can control the mind and access a different state of mind and see the world through a different lens.

 

In order to help with reducing the effects of anxiety it is important that we try and reach a state of calm, and in the next section we will look at developing a meditative state to help with anxiety.

 

One thing for sure, being a teacher, we will constantly crave new knowledge and experience, and id we do not learn to be able to satisfy this within a calm space, then the whole mechanism of anxiety begins again with us feeding the process.

Breaking the Cycle

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From 1919 to 2019. 100 years of a viral cycle that some argue we should have been better prepared for if only we would learn from history. But we should apply this to ourselves and our own emotional workings, we can learn from the past to better understand the future. There are cycles to our emotional events in the same way there are cycles to historic events or those present in nature.

These cycles however when recognised to be destructive to our mental health, must be broken down and looked at if we are to truly free ourselves from their bonds. It is still within our society belief although we preach differently, that we should just get on with it, men crying is a sign of weakness, looking into the inner self is weird. They are sweeping statements of belief systems that resonate very strongly within our lives ad ones we must fight if we are to move forward.

But to understand anxiety, we must first learn to break its hold on us, gently untie its knots, and sometimes experiment with alternative methods of dealing with stress.

 

At the end of the day, what have you got to lose?

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