उपज मन (The Yielding Mind)
This blog posts connects up my two main practices of Tai Chi and meditation. Listen to the audio or read the text below.
This meditation joins the dots between Tai Chi and meditation and, for me, is an important aspect of my practice.
Yielding is an interesting word and has many meanings to different people.
The Oxford English Dictionary says :
Give way to arguments, demands, or pressure.
With object – Relinquish possession of.
With object – Concede (a point of dispute)
The implication of all of these is that somehow the action of yielding is weak in some way.
The Yielding we are looking at here runs deeper. We need to come at this by looking at human reactions and in particular reactions to conflict.
Human evolution has given us an interesting reaction to conflict. Fight, Flight or Freeze. All animals have this reaction and it is for very good reason. Survival. All three are applicable in different situations. Usually we consider these for physical conflict. However, the same response system kicks in with other types of conflict including verbal, emotional and even personal internal conflict. The really challenging thing for us is that these types of conflict don’t necessarily have to be real to cause the reaction. Our mind just has to ‘believe’ they are real and our mind fools us all the time! Much of what we think and conclude about the world isn’t real. As we have learnt in our other meditations over the past weeks, often the mind does not present a real picture of the world to us. The picture is based on the many things that are embedded in our mental habit.
So, we have a trigger response, and this results in one main result. Tension. For all three responses, tension is required. What physically happens when we are under the influence of this kind of response? Well a number of things. Short term, these are of course useful for survival. But if experienced long term, they start to have detrimental affects on us.
Blood flow to brain and muscles increase/Concentration heightens – Potentially causing tension headache, migraines, anxiety, moods
Heart rate increases – Potentially leading to chest pains, raised blood pressure
Breathing becomes more rapid – Potentially leading to clammy, sweaty feelings, breathing difficulties
Digestion pauses to allow for more energy – Potentially leading to heartburn, indigestion, ulcers
Muscle tension increases – Potentially leading to aches, pains, muscle spasms, internal muscular related difficulties.
Other than the physical functions carried on by our body, stress can damage our bodies in other ways. When we are under stress, we often tend to abuse our body. This can include poor lifestyle choices such as eating fatty and greasy foods, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, or even abusing prescription or illegal drugs. All these can have a secondary effect on the body caused by stress.
Of course, we aren’t faced with physical conflict very often in this day and age (and physical conflict is usually short term) but just think about mental conflict and how this affects us in our modern world. This isn’t the only thing we have been blessed with by evolution. We also have a negativity bias. In other words a bias towards seeing things that are likely to cause us harm over and above things that are positive in our lives. Again, another survival factor. When faced with a nice juicy berry bush full of sustenance, if the wind just rustles the bush we see danger and we run. There may be a tiger in the bush and our negativity bias kicks in and assumes that is ‘probably’ the case!
If you combine negativity bias with our predisposition to fight, flight and freeze then you have a potential perfect storm of stress, particularly in our modern world. These mechanisms are usually inappropriate for us today. Rarely are our lives in danger from external forces. But they still kick in whenever conflict arises.
This is where the yielding mind comes in. We learn an alternative reaction to any type of conflict. Let go and relax! This most definitely going to need a lot of practice. It is not going to happen over night and we are going to have to practice all the time. Mindfulness is going to be key to our success here. If we are going to embed this as a habit, we will have to be vigilant and practising mind watching all the time. Again, as I have said before, we develop the habit on the cushion, we make progress in our daily lives. But here we need to develop a disciplined practice of mind watching every minute of the day. At work, at play, at home, at all times we mind watch. What are we watching? We are noticing our reaction to the world around us and in particular seeing our physical reaction. Our tightening. This is what we must pay attention to. The tightening. When we experience stress or conflict, there is a tightening in the heart and the gut. It is this we notice and we also pay attention to what is going on in our minds when this occurs. Generally, our 5 senses will have picked up the situation that is causing the response. Then our mind embellishes this. We watch and notice this process unfold and we observe how our body reacts. And the we focus on the tension and we encourage it to relax and let go. We can breathe in to the area.
The meditation practice. Very simply, we develop a meditation habit of focussing on our heart and our gut and offering a sense of soft compassion towards that area. Getting used to working in this way develops habit. If we spend half an hour each day meditating in this way we will start to notice the way it starts to influence our lives. We start to notice how we pay attention to our minds during the day and especially how we react when conflict arises. So we use mindfulness of breathing and we learn to breathe in to the heart space and encourage a feeling of softness there. Seeing our heart and gut area as a muscle that can be relaxed. This in turn has a softening affect on the mind.
Tai Chi practice also helps!