On Balance of Mind
Want a little more sukha and a little less dukkha in your life?
Deep within your inner ear lies an amazing little doohickey called the vestibular apparatus, consisting of three semi circular canals. Each of these canals contain little hair like fibers awash in a fluid bath. All together these canals detect motion in three dimensional space. One canal detects movement in the horizontal plane, one in the vertical plane, while the third detects forward and backward movement. When your head moves it stirs these little hairs within the fluid and as they detect movement, corresponding adjustments to the rest of the body are required in order to offset the change in your center of gravity. This little vestibular gizmo is also used by your eyeballs to help maintain focus and contact on moving objects at the same time you yourself are moving. As the little hairs detect motion they send a signal along nerves to a small group of neurons in your brain called the vestibular nuclei where the information is processed. A signal is then sent from the vestibular nuclei to the appropriate muscles for adjustment, keeping your body balanced in relation to the world around you. I know it sounds complicated when you think about all the thousands of signals traveling to and fro, moment by moment just to keep your body upright and moving in any given direction. But all in all it just comes naturally to you, and because you don’t think about it, you don’t struggle with it. When you want to take a step, you just take a step. When you want to sit, you just sit. You simply wake up, you go about your day and hopefully you don’t fall over.
Now that we’ve gone over the simple complexities of our vestibular apparatus and brain to body balance, the question might be…how do we achieve and maintain balance of mind?
As humans we tend to want, desire and crave. These cravings are the cause of much of our self inflicted angst and imbalance in our lives. In the world of Buddhism the word dukkha is often referred to as pain and suffering, but the word encompasses much more than physical pain or mental anguish. Dukkha is described in classic Sanskrit as a wheel off kilter or unbalanced. The opposing word to dukkha is sukha loosely defined as a wheel of perfect balance.
With all of my recent studies on the subject of life, the universe, spirituality and my efforts to obtain the strength of a positive and optimistic mind, I am coming more and more to see that in order to achieve balance in life we must live within the moment that is ‘now’. What happened yesterday, an hour ago, or a moment ago is what was, and not what is. Although it is nice to reminisce over our treasured memories and feel sorrow and ache over the painful ones, we should always reflect on them simply as memories. We should not hold them too tightly, as when we do, we become bound to them, slaves to our past. Our memories, good or bad, are not the reality that is ‘now’. Reality and truth are grounded in this moment and can be found only in this moment and nowhere else. What may happen tomorrow, in an hour, or in a future moment, is a now that’s time has not yet come. This does not mean we shouldn’t plan for the future. But once again, it is easy to become a slave to our conceptual thought of what the outcome of that future might be. The idea of what a future moment might be is akin to past memories and not an element of reality. It is but a abstract mind made dream that is not real, not grounded in truth.
So how do we make ourselves stop the wanting and craving that keeps us out of true center? We don’t! To want to stop wanting, or to crave to stop craving just adds to the wanting and craving. We can however, become the observer of the wanting and craving. When we become the watcher of our thoughts the yearning subsides and when the yearning subsides the mind comes into balance on its own natural accord, as we are the thinkers and not the thoughts that are thunk. Thunk you say? Yes I said thunk, but it was just a test to see if you are truly giving these words your full attention (and a test for my cherished wife who edits my lexis, just to see if she will allow such a cataclysmic calamity of the precious written word). One way of achieving balance within the mind is to stay present within the moment, to be mindful and alert to all our surroundings. To give our full and complete attention to this moment that is ‘now’, is to honor life, to honor truth, for this moment is the only place truth and life can ever be found, not our concept of what is happening in this moment but the moment itself. Become the observer, hear the crackle of leaves beneath your feet as you walk. Feel the air as it passes through the hairs in your nostrils with each breath you take. Become the witness without generating thought, without forming judgment. But thoughts do tend to create themselves, so we should monitor these thoughts with no attempt to stop them from arising. The goal is to attain what is known as ‘mushin’ or ‘munen’ loosely translated as ‘no mind’ or ‘no thought’. It is achieved through meditation, relaxation, and inner stillness. This may begin as small gaps of no conceptual thought, filled in with direct perceptual thought that at its core forms an opening for the rebalancing of our subconscious mind.
Much like the balancing of body by vestibular gizmo and brain, we can also train our mind itself to come into perfect balance and harmony. Without thinking about it, without struggling with it, we can balance our mind with our mind. We can wake up from the endless prattle of conceptual fret and our minds will balance themselves naturally without struggle. We can move away from the dukkha and have a little more sukha in our lives. We can wake up go about our day and hopefully we wont fall over.
By Mark McCann
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