22 Sep Over coming the great battle in the mind
It has long been understood by the greatest wisdom traditions through the ages, that our deepest nature is innately loving, kind, creative and compassionate. It’s the true self that we identify with most and wish was more present, more of the time. It’s the aspect of ourselves we love; the optimistic, kind, caring, patient, enthusiastic, generous, sensitive and wise personality. However, for most, there is a great battle taking place within our minds and hearts a lot of the time. It’s a battle to stay present and aware of our true nature amidst the barrage of negativity being hurled into our mind by the illusive, over-opinionated, mistrusting cynic in us.
The unspoken reality is that for most, the mind is like a battlefield. A perpetual tug-of-war fuelled by fear, self doubt, jealousy, prejudice, worry, regret, shame, guilt, disappointment, negative comparisons, second-guessing and self loathing.
This ensuing battle weighs heavy on our self-confidence, drains us of our life force and we often succumb to the cynic in the name of staying safe and surviving. Some days are a lot easier than others, but some days when the negative rant dominates, life can be a real struggle. We become overwhelmed with feelings; anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, disconnection, despondency and at worst, despair. When we feel overwhelmed, our instinct is to retreat and or blame something outside ourselves.
In our withdrawal we seek ways to comfort ourselves from this experience – some turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex, while others eat lots food, or not enough food, gamble, shop, the list of comforting devices goes on.
As a professional meditation teacher, I’m privy to the inner realities of people from all walks of life, such as CEOs of fortune 500 companies, billionaires, professional athletes, doctors, teachers, psychologists, mums and dads. What I can tell you is that this battle is happening to everyone in varying degrees and is having a profound impact on our capacity to grow and be the best versions of ourselves.
So why are we so fragmented and disconnected from our innate nature of loving, kind and creative compassion? Why is it we struggle to remain present? Why is it that we are dominated by regret of the past and worry of the future? What are we so afraid of that stops us from being free and innocent in the present moment, being fully expressive of our deepest nature?
In a nutshell, it is something we have learned from a very young age. We have been indoctrinated into a paradigm of worry and control. We have been trained to ignore our instincts (intelligent impulses from our true nature) and we have been instructed to live from an intellectual foundation – rational thinking based on information from the past to pre-empt likely outcomes in the future.
When the foundation of our decision-making is based on worry and control then this becomes the basic mode we operate in. It breeds mistrust of ourselves, the spontaneous expression of our true nature and ultimately our ability to be authentic. Mistrust of ourselves, our instincts and the intelligent flow of life is where all the problems start. The outcome is an internal battle that can be nothing short of crippling.
This is a battle humanity has faced for as long as we know. The ancient wisdom traditions hold the challenge of overcoming this battle as the greatest, most important and urgent. There is an ancient saying, ‘As is the mind, so is the world’. If the world is filled with people battling themselves, then the people of the world will be in battle with each other. When people stop battling themselves, then people stop battling each other and our true nature prevails and sculpts our society.
The great news is that these wonderful ancient traditions dedicated themselves to discovering the ways and means by which we can overcome the battle of the mind and become at one with our deepest nature of love, kindness, creativity and compassion. One such system, that we know of as yoga, is the science of unifying polarities to experience the unity of our true self, the whole self.
Unbeknownst to most, yoga isn’t just physical postures; it’s an eight-fold system that has meditation at the heart of the practice. The reason why it is at the heart of yoga is because meditation serves as the gateway to the direct experience of our true nature. It is the direct experience of ourselves that is the very remedy to the battle.
The way it works is so simple and elegant, as nature would have it. When we expose our mind to our deepest nature it immediately becomes impressed upon. We experience clear, coherent, orderly thoughts and awareness. Over time with regular practice, this impression remains. Also, when the mind accesses this deeper, quieter state of awareness, the body naturally becomes quieter and rests deeply. In this restful state, we begin recovering from the impressions of the past (indoctrinations) and begin identifying with what we are, as opposed to who we think we are. The scientific term for this deeply restful state is the relaxation response.
It has been the report of millions throughout the ages that there is an experience to be had and sustained that is available to everyone who dares to seek it. It is an experience of liberation of the battles of the mind and the fear, self-doubt, jealousy, prejudice, worry, regret, shame, guilt, disappointment, negative comparisons, second-guessing, and self loathing.
It requires that we take time every day to acknowledge that what we are is love, creativity and compassion and to practice activities that nurture and cause this nature to emerge. Yoga asana and meditation are a great place to start.
Meditation is actually really easy to learn. If you are interested in learning, you can download a free app called 1 Giant Mind – it contains an easy-to-learn 12-step course and a 30-day challenge to help make meditation a daily habit. You’ll be astounded at how quickly the battle of the mind subdues and how naturally greater love, creativity and compassion emerge.
Give it a go…what have you got to lose?
Jonni Pollard is a meditation teacher and co-founder of 1 Giant Mind, a not-for-profit that’s changing the way people think about meditation and their experience of life.