Be Aware Of Yourself

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Focus your attention through concentration meditation, writes AMIT GOSWAMI

How do we deal with excessive intellectualism? Intellectualism keeps us away from the body, away from experiencing emotions. Instead, emotions become something of a nuisance, something to be ashamed of, something to suppress at all costs. The remedy is, of course, to indulge the body — exercise, massage and hugging people are good.

Hugging really works. Many years ago, I was an intellectual. When I was doing intense spiritual work in the 1980s, the mind-brain dosha of intellectualism, although not yet a health problem, had become a deterrent for me in opening up spiritually. I remember going to a workshop where the workshop leader, the physician Richard Maoss, prescribed ‘juicy physicality’ for me, to be administered as hugs from my colleagues at the workshop. It worked.

A complementary technique is meditation — it has the purpose of helping you become aware of your feelings so that you do not suppress or defend them with rationalisation. Intellectuals are good at concentration or focused activity. So concentration meditation (for example, repeating a mantra mentally) comes naturally to intellectuals. To be aware of their mind-brain dosha pattern, they must additionally practise relaxed witnessing — allow everything to come into their inner awareness without judgement, just as a juror is supposed to do with courtroom evidence.

Slow Down

How does one work with excessive hyperactivity? The basic objective here is to slow down. What does ‘slow down’ accomplish?
Do an experiment. Take a coffee break right now while you are reading this. Make the coffee (or tea) as a ritual, paying attention to every step. When the coffee is prepared, sit down with your cup. Slowly lift the cup to your mouth and take a sip. Watch the response. “Ahhh.…” You feel relaxed; you feel happy.

It is easy to rationalise away the happiness, identifying it with liking coffee. But a little experimentation will easily convince you that happiness is not inherent in the coffee but instead came from the momentary expansion of your consciousness. Slowing down, first and foremost, is a way to expand your consciousness — it produces happiness and bliss.

Now you can see what hyperactivity is depriving you of — of bliss. The more you indulge in hyperactivity, the more it robs you of bliss. First comes sleeplessness. Sleep is bliss, being unbroken consciousness. Then come relationship problems — more separateness and less bliss. Finally, the disease — separateness has risen to a maximum. Slowing down, just by itself, makes room for the dissolution of separateness.

In 1991, I was at a yoga conference in India to give a talk on consciousness and quantum physics and was taking myself a bit too seriously. Then one of the teachers there asked me, “What do you do when you are by yourself?” And my psychological inflation came crashing down. I had to admit to myself that when I was by myself, I was fidgety and bored, always trying to find something to do. I realised that I needed to slow down.
How does one slow down? You can only take so many coffee breaks in a day. The primary answer here is also meditation, but the approach to meditation is different.

Hyperactivity in children is common now and such children often suffer from attention deficit disorder. This is, of course, when hyperactivity is already pathological, but attention deficit is a common associate of hyperactivity even for adults. So hyperactives must learn to focus their attention, which is the objective of usual forms of meditation called concentration meditation, such as mentally repeating a mantra over and over as in transcendental meditation. It helps initially to learn to concentrate on other objects as well, such as on a candle flame, on the breath, and so forth.

Meditation in this concentration form has now become famous as causing the ‘relaxation response,’ thanks to Herbert Benson’s pioneering research.
After a while of practising concentration meditation, you will realise that holding concentration for prolonged periods of time is difficult if not impossible. Do a little practice. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe evenly, and repeat a common mantra such as the Sanskrit word Aum in your mind. Of course, the mind will be distracted, but as soon as you discover that you are distracted, bring your mind firmly back to the mantra. Do it for five minutes.

Now open your eyes. How many times did you move away from your mantra? Five times? Twenty-five times? It is hard, isn’t it? It is a lot of work. And it takes a lot of practice to quiet the mind enough to hold attention for a time. So we discover a better way to hold attention — the way of relaxation, awareness meditation. Quantum Doctor, Jaico Books

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