A lot of people in this forum (and world-over) seem to be suffering from some sort of anxiety or depression. I had a very anxious mind a few years ago. I still get anxious sometimes, but I am now a lot better than what I was sometime ago. I want to share with you guys some things that I applied that helped me improve my condition.
I promise you three things if you spend time reading this post completely –
1. you will know some of the causes of this condition,
2. a little about your mind, Yoga and its practices, and
3. practical hints on how to deal with your mind.
Good thing is these methods can be applied by anyone – you don’t have to believe in a God, or leelas of God, a whole pantheon of deities and their relationships, advanced physics, or Guru, or in any supernatural thing. Some sects of the Sages were more interested in studying the internal states of mind, and how to deal with the mind than other deity worship, mantras, bhajans etc. These sages termed their path Gnana Marga(Wisdom School) Or Yoga. Sages like Ramana Maharshi, Robert Adams, Buddha, and Patanjali can come under this category. According to them, we just have to believe what we see or what can be demonstrated. We can enjoy the fruits of some of their findings and some from Western Psychologists to help improve our condition. This is a purely secular technique of Self-Help that anyone can apply.
Anxiety is a state of mind wherein you are so overwhelmed with a lot of panicky thoughts, fear and heavy emotions that you feel crippled to take any action. An anxiety attack is such a crippling psychological condition that it may lead to complete shut-down of the individual from performing any activity for a period of time.
- What causes anxiety?
Your complete belief in whatever thoughts that your mind throws at you is the primary cause of your anxiety. Every thought you have is associated with an emotion in your mental system. Think of your favorite dish, chances are you feel good. Think of a person whom you hate with all your heart, chances are you feel negative. Your mind is a storehouse of billions of such thoughts and their associated emotional impressions(called samskaras) – both pleasant and unpleasant. This lies just below the conscious surface of your mind. Scientists term this as the sub-conscious mind, and Yogis as Chitta. When a object or sound or an image comes in front of you, it provokes a certain reaction in you. This is because your mind has a huge database of such impressions, and it picks a reaction based on prior experience. The whole process of sadhana or self-purification is to get in touch with these aspects of yourself, throw away the trash in there by letting them go, and replacing them with positive and helpful impressions.
1.1 Childhood Trauma and abuse
A whole lot people across the planet are bought up in households wherein parents were simply not mature enough to bring new life into the world. With this unconsciousness in place, children when they are really vulnerable, are bought up in environments where there is a lot of disagreement between the parents, petty or major arguments, heavy criticism and maybe even verbal abuse. In addition to this, there might be other things a child may experience such as bullying at school or bad neighborhood etc. All these emotions are stored somewhere deep down in your personality when you were a kid. Psychologists term this entity as the “Inner Child”. Every man has a little boy inside them somewhere, and every grown woman has a little girl in her somewhere. This Inner Child inside us maybe in a state of deep hurt, or in a state of despair. Healing her is a big step in improving your life. Remember you don’t have to be resentful to the things that happened, or the people that hurt you. You just have to acknowledge your Inner Child, her problems and issues, counsel her and say good things to her. With time the trauma will release and she will definitely heal.
2. a little about your mind, Yoga and its practices
If you want to observe your mind and how it behaves, observe how you talk to yourself. You were a clean slate when you began your life, but the thoughts of all the people you came across got stored inside you. A lot of your thoughts are people inside you. You have internalized what they said, and started to believe what they told you are about. First step, is to start to have a positive dialog with yourself and look at what kind of thoughts are coming into your mind. You will come across different kinds of thoughts from all these different people – some who were good to you, some who abused you, some who helped you and what not. You will have to survey all these things and sort out those that are helpful to you, and those that are not useful. This whole process of self-healing can take a few months to a few years. But, at the end of the day, you will have to live, accept and put up with yourself. So, it should be one’s highest priority to invest some time and effort in these things, in my opinion. The ancient Sages developed a method for this and termed it as Dhyaana or meditation. They say ultimately it leads to a state where you are at perfect peace and joy with yourself – I haven’t reached there yet, so can’t verify their claims. But, I have cleaned a ton of trash stored inside and that has made a huge difference in my life.
3. Practical hints on how to deal with your mind.
So, first practice internal dialog every day to see what are the contents of your mind. Make your mind your friend. Next step is to learn how to meditate. Meditation is a practical method on dealing with the different layers of your mind and fathom the deeper aspects of your being. To meditate means to pay undivided attention to one thing whole-heartedly without least strain to the mind.
Let us say you want to meditate on your breath. Now relax your whole body, and observe your breath. When you start observing, all kinds of thoughts come immediately after a few seconds. What you need to do, is observe them without reacting to them by fighting or pushing them away or suppress it. This is called “letting go” of your thoughts. Once you let go your train of thoughts, you can get back to breath, and after a while you will again a train of thoughts, in which case you will again have to let go. The mind comes under control gradually over a period of letting go. Do not force yourself to meditate. Do not make drastic resolutions or attempt heavy duty Sadhanas. Meditation should be pleasurable not something you put yourself under tremendous pressure to achieve Samadhi or vision of deity or whatever. Be gentle and patient with yourself, and you will see gradually you improve over time. I wish to emphatically tell you this: there is no instant method of enlightenment or meditation – no matter who your guru is, what the system claims, or what methods you use. If you want to learn more about meditation, and pursue the method of meditation systematically, read the real meaning of meditation (free link) and Path of Fire and Light (Paid book).
3.1 Japa and Mantra
Letting go of thoughts become easier over time with meditation on the breath. After a while, you can proceed to meditate with a mantra which is a sound or set of sounds that help you go deeper within. You may chant “So” when you breathe in, and “Hum” when you breath out. Gently repeat your mantra, if a thought comes you can let it go, or talk to it, then come back to the mantra. Ten counts per day will do initially, and once you build a habit, later on if you feel good, you can increase it to what Om Swami recommends in Sonic Science of Mantras. The mantra has its own energy or shakti that gradually builds up in your mind, and japa will become the most happiest activity in you day.
Easiest method of meditation for beginners I found useful and HIGHLY recommend is:
3.2 Heartfulness practice
It is completely FREE, doesn’t require you to believe in God or deity or whatever, and is highly potent. WHY? You ask. They use a special energy called “pranahuti” that helps you tremendously in centering yourself. It is like the help from two small wheels at the back wheel when you learn to bicycle. The energy does the heavy lifting, and all you have to do is be receptive to it. You don’t fight with your thoughts, suppress them etc. Some pressing thoughts you might have to talk to, to deal with. Tell them, I will address you after meditation, and keep your promise to them. They will start trusting you and stop troubling you. There are two methods of daily practices – meditation in the morning to help center ourselves, and cleaning in the evening to clean the accumulated impressions from the day. I found them useful. “Heartsapp” is another completely FREE app that has these practices. You don’t have to chant thousands of rounds, or sit still for hours to reach a deep meditative state with this method.
You will start to experience a distance between you and your thoughts after a few weeks of consistent practice. Belief in whatever your conscious mind throws at you will gradually reduce, and you will have less anxiety and more peace.
Pitfalls for students of Yoga and Vedanta I found were finding myself becoming too intellectual, and sorting through the rubbish of teacher who proclaim “you are already enlightened” etc. It was a tough task to sort the good from the bad. A judicious mix of Karma, Bhakti, relaxation, and Dhyaana (Gyaana) is much recommended for the aspirant.
I was born under no special circumstances, nor did I do any special Sadhana in the Himalayas, nor do I consider myself as someone special. If I can get better, YOU can too. Whatever I applied and found useful, I have freely shared with you in this post. All you need is put in some time and effort, and you will find yourself in a better place.
I hope I made good of my promise, and you guys got something out of your time!
Further reading/Reference Books: