29 Aug Your Powerful Mind
Imagine how it feels to be up and outside early in the morning, when there’s light to the day but before the sun has fully risen. The air is crisp and smells fresh, the ground dewy. It’s quiet and the day feels new.
When you breathe in, the air cools your nostrils and enlivens your lungs. You’re holding a hot beverage, coffee or tea. As you watch the steam rising from it, it warms your hands. Your eyes are still a little heavy from sleep, so you look around at your surroundings to wake them up.
You take a sip of your warm drink and taste the familiar flavor. As you swallow, you hear soft birdsong and, in the distance, evidence you’re not the only one awake. You hear a truck drive past on the highway miles away. You take a deep breath in, sigh it out, turn around, and head to where you’re going.
What else are you adding to this scene? Are there details I didn’t mention that fill in blanks and give meaning to what you’re imagining? Are you left with any lingering emotions? Do you know where you’re headed off to?
Your senses and your mind
It’s amazing to me how useful engaging our senses can be for our mind. Like a book or movie that’s grabbed your attention, you’re invested in the moment and temporarily freed from distractions. Have you ever been so engrossed in what you were doing you accidentally ignore someone who comes into the room and talks to you? Have you ever interrupted someone so engrossed, saying their name a few times before they look up and acknowledge you? It’s incredible!
You’ve got some control
In a world where it’s easy to get distracted, sense engagement can be a helpful tool to focus and gather yourself into full presence. Or, like we did above, take a mental break into an imaginary space that makes you actually feel how you want to feel. At peace, amped up, curious…I mean, all I gotta do is imagine the Jock Jams soundtrack and I’m ready to ball. I don’t even know how to ball, but I’m ready for it.
We often think (aka worry, ruminate, loop) our way into feelings and emotions. We can do it to feel anxious, or do it to feel relaxed. Or whatever. It’s possible to use our powerful minds and imaginations intentionally. Doing so requires awareness, choice and repetition.
Yoga as a practice helps to focus the mind, bringing your senses away from an external focus and towards an internal one. Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga. Pratyahara means the withdrawal of the senses. It’s the bridge between the external practices of ethics, body, and breath and the internal practices of concentration, meditation, and enlightenment.
In the external limbs, we use all sorts of different techniques to tame our wild minds to be less romanced by distraction and find some semblance of concentration. In the internal limbs, we harness the skills of focused concentration to transcend the suffering of life and then, I can only imagine, poof out of mundane existence (I start to get metaphysically discombobulated trying to understand the philosophy much past the corporeal realms, so for this I am not a teacher!)
What I’m saying is, your mind is powerful and you already know how to use it in so many ways. You can imagine potential future outcomes and if you get yourself worked up into something dystopian why not start imagining, with all your might, a crisp morning with a cup of coffee and birdsong?
Get yourself in the mindset of peace to strategize your next step, instead of starting from a mindset of worry.
Don’t know how to do this? Start going to your yoga classes. Yoga is designed for this, it’s a mental practice. Even if your teacher isn’t specifically saying so and it seems mostly about your body. It’s why yoga feels different from other exercises. It’s special, because it’s designed to be.
Over thousands and thousands of years, our ancient and contemporary South Asian brothers and sisters have refined and passed down these practices made to harness human nature and provide direct experience of something transcendent. As diluted as it may seem here in 21st century America, the practice carries with it the seeds of what it’s always been. A way to yoke the mind and channel it towards spiritual goals.
There’s a specific yoga practice that works pretty directly with the mind and imagination. It’s called yoga nidra and it’s an undiluted mental practice of shifting awareness and visual imagery. You might look into yoga nidra if you’ve been particularly intrigued by this post.
Image by Johannes Plenio from Pexels