Shira Cohen Yoga Therapist & Wellness educator, more than passionate about empowering through education, almost obsessed, on emotional and mental self-agency, so that together we can co-create a world worth living in.
We create mental clarity and focus by understanding our mind body. In Sanskrit this is called Manomaya kosha, the mind illusion sheath. With mental clarity naturally leads to confidence, curiosity and creativity flow. Our minds true state is reflective, clear and deep like a mountain lake.
The mind, like a lake, remains clear when it has enough moments of stillness. Moments without stimulus equals a calm, collected and centred mind, even during the full catastrophe life.
This state of mind, known as Buddhi in Sanskrit, and where Buddha comes from, is someone who sees clearly, without ripples of distortion. Too many ripples leads to waves and confusion.
Do you wish your mind was more a beloved companion than a spoilt brat? I know I did!! Since about four years I truly appreciate my mind and see it as a friend rather than foe.
Our reflective mind can be cultivated with the practices of breathing, meditation, mindfulness, detachment, intention, affirmation and visualisation. Each practice serves a different purpose, and at different times we may need different practices. But a general rule is, find one that suites you now, practice it for months until it almost becomes a habit, replacing negative patterns, and then try something new.
If we keep jumping from one practice to the next we never reap the benefits. It’s like digging a hole for water, but without depth we'll never discover anything and end up even more parched.
From Physical To Subtle, Through The Elements
In the article Yoga Therapy, we looked at what the Vedas calls our five different bodies; food, energy, mind, psyche and causal. We’ve travelled from the tangible physical body to a subtler experience of our energy body; Pranamaya Kosha. In this article we’ll shine some light on our mental body, Manomaya Kosha.
For philosophy lovers wanting to puzzle the pieces and get a glimpse of the big picture, our five bodies are related to the five elements; earth, water, fire, air and space. Our physical body is mainly made up of earth, heavy, inert, solid; ‘soil-id’.
Our energy body when healthy, flows like water, stagnate when we move too little, or dissipates when we spread our energy too thin into too many channels. Because mind is connected to the fire element an exerted mind is often overheated. Fire gives heat, light and energy to move, do, see, perceive and produce. Without the light and heat we’d never grasp their full beauty or purpose of anything in life.
Fire allows us to see, discern, differentiate, organise and design. And too much of a good thing is never good. We live in a time where vision is our main way of relating in the world, media, marketing, design, it’s not strange that our mind is overwhelmed, overstimulated, and yet undernourished. So, what can we do, living in this world of constant visual input?
Let’s first see the power and purpose of our mind, then understand how we can clear, calm and channel this amazing tool.
The Power & Purpose Of Our Mind
Our mind is what sets us apart from other creatures. Evolving over millions of years to accommodate creating the most wonderful, wild and wicked creations. It has the power to discern, discriminate, pull apart, put together, reconstruct and fabricate. It has the will to direct, empower and eventually bring into manifestation, anything, good bad and utterly ugly. Our mind body is made up of thoughts, imagination, memories, logic and conscious and sub-conscious impressions, both clear concepts and misconceptions.
The mind is agile, quick, nimble, adaptable. It loves to show off its dexterity. It takes the form of whatever is in front of it. Its nature is to mimic, connect and find new ways to bring different concepts, knowledge and impressions together. This is the beauty of the mind.
Also detrimental when we take in too much information. Information is not education, which is a slower process and requires practical application, and therefore has an output aspect which is missing with information, unless we use it for creative or expressive purposes.
Our mind is like an empty vessel, endlessly filling itself with whatever is in front it. In a world full of ideas, fantasies, impressions, opinions, claims, these are absorbed while our mind tries to make sense or give meaning to this information in relation to our own impressions and cognitive processes. So there’s an endless possibility of variable thoughts we can conjure up.
This busy-body is a master at moving, change and doing. That’s its nature. Since in utero, we’re all ‘trained’, to grasp and hold onto any concept, idea, pattern, impression, logical process, to ensure survival and acceptance into our family/tribe. This prerequisite has made us so busy being busy, we’re often more human doings than human beings.
And clearing only happens through expression, output, creativity, emoting, meditation, concentration techniques and communication.
Therefore a little less doing and a bit more being, emoting and expressing goes a long way in mental health. To create calm and cultivate a reflective mind, simplicity is key. Be surrounded by scenes and impressions of natural clarity, walk in nature, lie on the sofa without doing anything, not even a podcast, nothing, visit a great friend to have meaningful conversations with.
Creating Clarity With Ease
Mental calm comes with being easy and self-compassionate. So let’s keep it simple. No complicated formulas, nor projecting onto some external authority to access our inherent intelligene, it's all in us now. Just need to take action and stick to it. The mental field is subtle and to re-ignite our mental amazingness we need to understand these four things;
1. Impressions from the senses strongly affect our mind. Mostly through images and words; media, films, books, songs, magazines. The intensity of affect depends on the level of affection/identification or aversion, we have with the source of these impressions.
2. When the mind digests all experiences without misunderstandings, it remains clear. That’s why clear communication skills and boundaries is not only valuable, but a necessity, for mental clarity and focus. And otherwise we need alone time and moments without any doing.
3. The movement of our body’s energy indirectly affects the movement of our mind. Mental movement is a major influence over our state of mind. That’s why regulating our breathing exercises, affecting our physiology and therefore our energy, are very effective when it comes to mental wellbeing.
4. Because a matured mind thinks in words, what we hear again and again affects what we think, we see, believe and create. Words effect us deeper than action. It stays longed in our conscious memory much longer.
Tools To Create Mental Clarity And Focus In Manomaya Kosha
These four tools can help us cultivate the mind we love to live with. Rather than dominating all our actions, words and thoughts.
Same In As Out Breathing – Samavritti
Breathing affects mind through physiology and the energy charge our physiology carries throughout the system. Physiology affects psychology, bringing up issues in our tissues, the unconscious. So breathing in a pattern of equal, smooth and same ratio of in as out, calms energy and mind. First by focusing our attention, and secondly, by steadying the physiological waves, we calm thought oscillation.
A ratio of 1:1 breathing is all our mind requires. Meaning we breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds. Do 10-20 rounds every day. You can increase the ratio 1:1 to 8, 9, 10 and up to 15 seconds or more, as long as if feels easy. Let the breath be is smooth and naturally extend it. Comfort is key. Not triggering the nervous system, calms the nerves, senses and mind.
Practicing concentration trains the mind to land in one place. It also needs a place to call home. In the beginning you might have delusions that your mind stays still for minutes at a time, but when you sit and observe in all honesty, you’ll discern the incredibly cleverness of this mental acrobat. Slowly it does calm but it takes time. By not doing, the mind empties out. As much as you’ve put in, be patient and self-compassionate with how long it takes to empty.
Lie down in the sun, or on your sofa, daydream, absorb the moment, listening to the birds, just like a cat. We love watching the grace, ease and beauty of cats. But if you meditate on their behaviour, they’re just very graceful at being lazy. They do it with such unapologetic poise, that we think they’re sleek, sublime and superior. And they are. At the art of Being, rather than doing.
Get out of your head and into your body. Being in your body, feeling your legs and heart as your run, or your whole body ability and freedom of expression as you dance, make love or just feel the earth under your feet when you walk, will clear the mind. Using your senses is the best way to be in body. In the here and now, you’re embodied. Embodiment is the best place for a mind to live and thrive. Embodiment is human being rather than human doing.
With these simple steps you can create the mental clarity and calm you crave. Whilst in the midst of the full catastrophe of Life! Be. Not busy, just being. Be all the things we were never trained for– yourself, unapologetically.
Allow yourself to empty out now and then. Live fully as we were meant to be.
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