To us who practice yoga and meditation on a daily basis, anxiety means existence of loose and uncontrolled thoughts in the mind due to the weak texture of the mind. This is how in Yogic sciences we would define the term. Pictorially, it may be represented as in the exhibit below.
Every person has three types of thoughts – noble thoughts, worldly thoughts and poor thoughts. Anxiety arises in the middle zone of the worldly or the mixed thoughts and in a mind, which may be in need of greater strength.
This condition is often biological. It comes to most people by birth. The Sanskrit the term to explain these tendencies is Samskara. Later, things like social conditions and personal grooming etc. shape its future. Thus it can be corrected as well and that’s the most important thing to be remembered.
When I was a child, I recall I would feel tremendously nervous for virtually no reason. I didn’t like that, yet most of the times, I felt helpless. Besides, there was no one around who could understand my problem. It was much later in my late twenties, when I met my revered teacher and then only the transformation path opened.
Later I discovered that there were 3 parts to this change-management.
- You have to understand the science, i.e. the background mechanism of how the change shall happen.
- You have to identify the challenges, and these come from the surrounding external environment and will block your way or offer hindrances.
- Amidst them, you have to learn to curb these tendencies and in a way this happens automatically when the mind is gradually strengthened.
This is the path that the science of yoga offers. Thus the simple formula is – at first a little training followed by regular practice until the objective has been achieved.
Nowadays anxiety is becoming such a huge problem. So many people seem to be suffering from general anxiety disorder.
Certainly, everyone has the option of seeking formal medical help or take therapy support; yet at some point you have to learn to take care of yourself through your own efforts. This is where the various yogic procedures like easy meditative methods become increasingly relevant.
What yogis do about anxiety? How do they handle it?
The first thing to understand in this context is that some anxiousness would always remain in everyone, no matter who they are, for as long as they are alive in this world. Thus technically, no one can be 100% free of all anxieties at all the times. Yet what makes the difference between one person and the other is the fact that: is your anxiousness controlling you or are you in control of your anxious tendencies?
A person who can exercise a reasonable control over their anxious behavior shall be more focused, more productive and far more relaxed in life as compared to the others. Plus, this difference would be irrespective of their social, physical or economic condition.
Now let’s understand how this transformation happens via easy meditative methods.
If you recall our previous write-up, there we spoke about the direction of thoughts for controlling and eliminating all kinds of depressive tendencies of the mind. Later we travelled through the 10-steps of the meditative exercise which involved, listening to the chirping of the birds.
In depression, the direction of the thoughts is important because they all flow in the same negative direction.
However, in anxiety related habits or problems, we have to change the texture of the mind because the thoughts otherwise show a random pattern.
Here, let us use an easy example from the kitchen to understand what this means.
A loose or an anxiety-filled mind is like dry flour. It is dusty. It gets stuck to anything it touches, like your fingers or the vessel and in its original state this dry flour is good merely for the consumption by the animals or at most the insects. Humans rarely eat dry flour, whether of wheat, rice or any other cereal.
Similarly, an anxious mind would have countless lose thoughts. Such a mind would start thinking about anything under the sun. Incidentally, that thinking would be neither deep nor sharp. Instead it would be confusing thoughts jumbling into one another creating a ruckus.
So, what does the science of yoga say – how to correct/change this situation?
In kitchen, most of the times, the flour is kneaded into a dough to make it useful for eventual consumption to bake a bread or cake or something truly edible. In this write-up we are going to use this analogy to understand how the regular practice of easy meditative methods eventually transforms the texture of the mind.
Yes, I know. In some recipes flour is not turned into dough. Instead it is first heated and then mixed with other ingredients like sugar, salt, dry fruits, etc. Thus even in that alternate procedure the texture of the flour is first changed for the needful. Similarly, for freedom from anxiety disorders the only reliable way is to change the texture of the mind, once and forever.
Further, the way while in making dough, a binding agent like water, milk, curd, butter or egg liquid may be added to the flour or when changing the texture of flour by heating, constant stirring is applied; for the transformation of the mind we use easy meditative methods to make a beginning.
Thus in yogic and meditative sciences also an external binding agent in brought in which eventually helps you in containing the flow of your thoughts and then transforming the nature of your mind. Also note that while in our previous write-up we called it ‘magnet’, here we are referring to the same idea by calling it ‘the binding-agent‘ – the meaning of the two terms in closely similar.
Thus the same chirping of the birds, which helped you change the direction of your thoughts in the situation of depression, could also be useful for you in curbing your anxious behavior as well. And this would be the biggest beauty of the ancient sciences of yoga and meditation, that the same mechanism would be able to help you under multiple situations. Yet, this transformation won’t happen by itself. Instead, you shall have to work.
Hence every day, for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or as long as you can, you shall have to practice the said meditative procedure. Without practice nothing shall move in this science. However, if you practice, you will surely see the benefits.
An important point to discuss at this juncture would be the issue of confusions and questions that may rise in your mind when you start with things like meditative methods, even if those exercises may be something as simple as listening to the chirping of the birds.
Yes, you may experience genuine doubts with respect to the eventual effectiveness, efficiency and efficacy of these procedures as well as this whole science, which is so old and about which you may have heard so many mystical or superfluous things over the years.
To address all those concerns, I would want you to come back into the kitchen and to the kneading of the dough.
What happens when you start making dough by adding a binding agent like water? Doesn’t it make a mess of things, at first?
Yet, you keep pressing the stuff, by adding water in little proportion and as you continue to do, a kind of semi-firm structure starts evolving. The flour doesn’t remain what it was previously. And though it may not be in the perfect usable condition as well, yet the transformation in its texture, even at this point, is unmistakable.
Exactly, the same thing happens with your mind when you practice meditation or meditative exercises every day for some time, your mind gradually starts gaining strength. Then slowly, the loose thoughts of your mind start vanishing.
Incidentally, to most people this mechanism may seem long and tedious. This has been at least my experience. I have seen people feeling impatient. Also I have known several cases of people who quit in the middle. This is also where the crucial role of the teacher or the companion has to be understood in the entire cycle.
In contrast, if someone is able to retain their motivation anyhow and continue practicing, then they in turn are able to learn newer/advanced skills/methods, which then bring them a fresh charge of power. If you notice, in dough-making also, a similar sequence happens. Once you have assembled the flour into a lose dough, you must press it hard with your fist by adding merely a mild touch of water.
You keep doing that repeatedly and then, soon, the soft dough is ready right in front. In this new texture, it won’t stick either to the vessel or to your fingers. Instead, it shall be firm in itself and ready to be used for the cooking procedures ahead.
This is exactly how regular practice of meditation or easy meditative methods transforms the anxiety ridden behavior of an individual by changing the texture of their mind.
Meditation is self-help.
Yogic and Meditative sciences are comprehensive self-help. If practiced regularly, they offer several benefits. Moreover they help you become a peaceful person while also retaining your strong sense of purpose. However, its adoption as a daily life practice depends on one simple factor – how desperate are you to change yourself for the better?
This is because otherwise you shall find a lot of people in the world, who would although talk a lot about their inherent negative tendencies like anxiety or related disorders, yet may do nothing ever to actually come out of that situation. Some may simply love staying trapped out of their own inertia, while others may be too afraid to give themselves even an honest try for once.
Thus, adopting this path is purely a matter of personal choice. Otherwise, the need for self-care, essentially in case of mental health is going to grow tremendously in the coming future. This will be simply because the whole world seems growing increasingly anxious.
Hence, in a way, those times are gone when you had to worry merely about your own anxiousness. Instead now you may have to face the outcome of other people’s anxieties as well. And to be able to do that successfully, it is very important that you are strong within yourself. This is also where self-care and disciplines like yoga, meditation, mindfulness or easy meditative methods come handy.
Related reading: ‘Monkey-Mind’ by Gail Boenning containing another easy meditative exercise – How many sounds can you hear?
Next week: Stress
diluted using easy meditative methods.