I recently partnered with a company who is well on their way in terms of their focus on mental health. Within their organization’s culture they leverage the parallel of a backpack in talking to their employees about mental health. It is well known and understood in their world that your backpack contains both work and life.
Managing your backpack is important. I believe we can take this parallel a step further. Think of two backpacks, an outer one and an inner one. The outer backpack holds life and work issues. We are all familiar with the universe outside, and we continue to explore deeper and wider. We can touch and feel the external universe, travel the universe and to some extent control that universe.
The inner backpack holds emotions and other stuff that exist in the inner universe. Learning to manage the inner backpack is even more important than managing the external one because the inner backpack stays with you even after the physical body is no more in existence.
Before we start managing the inner backpack, we must learn and understand our inner universe. But do we know where the inner universe is?
When you close your eyes and look inside, where do you look?
Are you looking inside your mind?
Are you looking inside your heart? Or
Are you looking elsewhere?
Where do your thoughts and emotions come from and where do they go?
Some neuroscientists believe that it all happens through the neurons in our brain. Many of us believe it comes from our mind or the brain and when asked to close our eyes and meditate – we start looking inside our mind. The brain is primarily composed of neurons, which are cells that generate electrical impulses for communication. Neurons release brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, which generate these electrical signals in neighboring neurons. The electrical signals propagate like a wave to thousands of neurons, which leads to thought formation. This is one explanation but subject to questions.
Many of us when asked to close our eyes and meditate try to focus on our mind and calm it down. The mind’s job is minding and therefore it becomes an ongoing struggle if we try to prevent it from doing its job. We either find ourselves becoming frustrated or we continue to struggle hoping that one day our mind will become peaceful. On occasion, the mind can trick us and give us the perception that it is at rest which gives us some hope, but we really haven’t found our inner universe yet. So, the story continues.
How do you silence and rest your mind?
The practice of intermittent silence that I have talked about before is the door to the inner universe. Intermittent silence represents taking a break from life. In the same way that people rest their physical body and lower their heart rate to a resting place. Resting the brain is just as important. Even ten minutes of resting the brain is beneficial.
There are four components of intermittent silence:
- Close your mouth and relax your jaw muscles – be without words for 10 minutes
- Close your eyes
- Silent listening
- Silent watching (of thoughts)
By closing the mouth and relaxing your jaw muscles, the speech and language area of brain is able to rest. There are several areas of the brain that play a critical role in speech and language. Broca’s area, located in the left hemisphere, is associated with speech production and articulation. Wernicke’s area is a critical language area in the posterior superior temporal lobe connects to Broca’s area via a neural pathway.
Similarly, by closing the eyes, the visual pathway can rest.
By listening in silence and hearing sounds without judgment, your auditory pathways are able to rest. Allowing thoughts to pass without paying attention will give rest to the brain, and when that resting place is achieved, a door will open to your individual consciousness. New doors start to open as you start spending more time with yourself in silence on a regular basis. You start knowing and experiencing the inner universe.
Silence is the language of the inner universe. The inner universe in not an empty nothing place. It’s a vibrant space with high energy components. I did a radio show with Suresh Ramaswamy, a transformational coach, and a visionary entrepreneur about his personal meditation experience. He shared his experience of a 10-day Zen retreat that I found interesting and appropriate for understanding the inner universe. He found that all kind of thoughts, ideas, creativity, innovations, and emotions exist inside our inner universe. The bad and the good, they are all there. Happiness, sadness, joy, anger, jealousy, ego, gratitude, resilience etc. are all floating around side by side.
Inner outer continuum
The inner and the outer is the division of the mind. The universe does not divide the inner and the outer universe. The physical body experiences both and so does the mind. As mentioned above, the mind continues to mind whether the eyes are open or closed and the mindfulness continues to record the events in both situations.
The inner and outer are not two. You inhale and you exhale. When you exhale, the breath goes out; when you inhale, the breath goes in. The within is joined with the without – the inhalation is part of exhalation; the exhalation is part of inhalation. The breath that was mine just a moment before is no longer mine; it has become yours. And the breath that was yours is no longer yours; it has become mine. So you are not so without and I am not so within. We are joined together.
However, there is a difference. You inhale oxygen and you exhale carbon dioxide. Similarly, the inner universe and outer universe stay interconnected as long as the physical body is in existence; the rules change when the physical body ceases to exist. The outer universe continues to exist but the astral body which continues after the physical body dies, is unable to interact in the same way with the outer universe as the physical body could.
The inner universe and the outer universe are interconnected. The physical body experiences both and hence it is important to understand what the connecting bridges are and why is it important to know the inner universe. We will first address the connecting bridges. There are three interconnecting bridges that we investigate here:
As you know, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. We also breathe life energy prana is not a common knowledge and some might even be skeptical about it. This however forms the basis for all the pranayama teachings of the ancient India. There also exists a little pause between breathing in and breathing out. This little gap becomes significant and is the connection between the outer and the inner universe. This forms the basis of the most widespread meditation, the vipassana meditation popularized by Buddha.
There are seven chakras that bridge between the inner and the outer universe. Attention and focus are food for the chakras. They are also energy centers and attribute specific energy at each center. Chakra health is important and, in my mind, as important as physical and mental health. There is a lot of literature and mention of blocked chakras and or imbalance in chakras. While there is some truth in what is said and has been said about unblocking the chakras or balancing the chakras, I feel that there is a better approach to understanding the chakras for us. Working on Chakra health is possible and worth it.
The power of sound is evident in Mantras. Om or Amen as it is expressed in the West is the all-pervading sound of the universe. Music in a disco dance is different than music of a marching band. These sounds have different and unique impacts in different situations and work at different frequencies. Different chakras are affected by different frequencies of sound. The lower chakras correspond to lower frequencies and the higher-to-higher frequencies.
How do you dive into your inner universe?
The physical body does not swim in the inner universe but can experience many of the effects. The mind’s behavior depends upon your relationship with it. The mind can become a great barrier or a great facilitator. The mind has an immense value. Once your mind understands that you value and respect it, it will begin to cooperate with you. Your mind wants you to continue believing the illusion that it is the boss. Why would it not? A journey to meditation is a threat to mind’s existence in some ways. It might lose its value within the illusion and that is why it puts up barriers.
Witnessing is the word that has been most quoted in meditation circles. It is a great practice to witness your thoughts as a third person, but the thoughts continue to exist. They come and go. You start witnessing and the next minute you realize that you have been hijacked by one of your thoughts. You start feeling frustrated at times with the reality that you can’t practice the art properly. The key is Coexistence.
If you are invested in the stock market and the stock market is crashing, (found in your outer pockets of your backpack) meditation is not going to stop the fall of the stock market. Nor do you need to be detached from the stock market because it is material and not spiritual. Material and spiritual are made to co-exist. Many of us create the duality out of materialism and spiritualism.
Many will say that meditation will help you deal with the pain of the losses that you incur from the fall in your wealth. This maybe true but only partly. I think that meditation will provide you with tools to deal with the falling stock market as well.
Contrary to several beliefs that meditation works on the mind, meditation that I subscribe to works on your inner universe and your individual flame. It strengthens your core and widens the flame. You have the energy and tools to manage the falling stock market.
The Inner Backpack
All the tools to deal with events, situations and emotional storms are available in your inner universe. What do you put in your inner backpack from vast resources out there is up to you? The backpack can be customized too. Think of this simple example. If you were a professional football player, you may put in a little bit of anger and strength within your inner backpack before you take the field. The anger and strength come from deep within and is needed in game situations versus simple everyday life. By visualizing the game, this player will fuel the anger and strength they need to be at their best.
Meditation provides entry to the inner universe where all the tools and strategies abound. The mind can work as diligently on the inside as it does on the outside. There is no need to change or pacify your mind. It is a great asset that we all have.
When you connect with your inner universe via meditation, it unlocks the contents within the inner universe. you can then pick and choose what you place in the inner backpack. you learn how to manage your inner backpack.
It’s important to understand that meditation does not work on the mind and or emotions. It strengthens your inner core and makes you more efficient and capable of making clear decisions. Co-existence is the key for meditation. You focus on meditation while everything else continues to be. The stock market is crashing, the wind is blowing, trees are growing, emotions are flaring, and thoughts are flowing. Sometimes the flow of thoughts will hijack your being. Come back to meditation when you realize, you have not done anything wrong. This is part of the journey to the inner universe and managing your backpack.
In the next article, we will address the concept of “The Flow”
We all have heard about stem cells. In simple terms, stems cells can become any tissue or organ with exception of the placenta. There exists a similar energy or force in the inner universe that can turn into any energy form. Example: music, creativity, invention, and innovation. I look forward to sharing this fascinating topic with you and how you can access this inner force and create “The Flow”.