09 June 2017

How the Mind Affects the Health of the Body

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In this blog, I wanted to fill out your understanding of the process of meditation and then to see how it’s affecting us at a very deep level, so we can really understand the profound changes that are happening in the body and in the mind whilst we sit.

Can the Mind Negatively Affect the Body?

It’s actually very hard to grasp that so much can change just by sitting still, but if you can grasp the idea for a moment that the mind appears inside the body twenty-four hours of every day, supporting the life faculty in the body, and the quality with which the mind appears in the body determines the characteristic of that energy that supports your life.

I’ve explained in detail in my book, The Flavour of Liberation – Volume One, how all the various material states in the body come into being, and you are starting to come to understand that more of them are produced by consciousness and what we call action energy, kamma, than are produced by the food we eat and the temperature in the body itself. This means we might be very diligent about what we eat, thinking that that’s our best way to maintain good health, but if we are obsessed about our diet the obsessive nature of the mind can burn up the base of the body and do more harm than occasionally not paying attention to our diet!

If our mind is unruly or uncontrolled, turbulent or shaken up, it’s producing turbulence inside the body all the time. If we’re filled with restlessness, easily agitated, often impatient or we get angry at the slightest thing, or we crave things we haven’t got, that mental state doesn’t go on as a separate process that is cut off from the physical states in your body. The body and mind arise, dependent upon each other. So every time your mind is boiling in anger, you are breaking down the very base of your physical being. Every time you are wrapped up in craving for something, you are shaking apart the very base of your body and all the energy structures that keep this body functioning properly are shaken up.

Now, this body has an extraordinary intelligence. It’s quite capable of running the show perfectly. It’s already pre-programmed with all the information it needs, and if you were to be able to get out of the way, everything would happen just the way it’s supposed to. Because of this mental interference that goes on all the time, we’re constantly obsessing about this, worrying about that, projecting about ideas in the future, obsessing about things that have already come to pass instead of letting them go, we put into the mix. This incessant interference with the natural process and the natural rhythms, the natural expansion and contraction of the waves and currents of energy that should flow through the body perfectly, become broken up, discordant and dysfunctional.

Can Meditation Heal Degenerative Conditions in the Body?

Here is the very seed, the root, of the problem. Through multiplication and repetition, you are literally sowing the seeds of what can become various degenerative conditions as you cause a breakdown in the physical structure of your body. When you sit still and put the mind in a single point, all that stops for a moment. With the mind completely engaged in knowing the breath and only the breath, all that white noise that the mind is normally producing inside the body stops, just for an instant. And in that moment, the natural rhythm of the body starts to come through. The wave of energy that moves through the spine, the subtle expansion and contraction, that maybe we can’t even sense yet; the assimilating of energy from externally inward, the processing and releasing of used energy outwards, starts to arise.

And it is a quantum shift in the way your body functions. It’s so fundamental. If you hadn’t meditated before, at whatever age you are – say you are thirty-five years old – you may have never in your life brought the mind to a point of complete rest, with full awareness. And there is a huge difference between bringing the mind to a point of rest with full awareness and going to sleep and resting the mind. This is because, the awareness energy in the body produces the life faculty, the life force, the chi. When you sleep, of course, the ‘body automatic’ fires up again and the body takes a rest and repairs itself. I mean, it is a fact that if you didn’t go to sleep you would die, because this mind would just destroy this body. The body would never come back into rhythm.

If you can come to that point of rest with full awareness, as we aim to do in meditation, then extraordinary things can start to happen. Which is why the meditation we are going to practise here this week is very much geared towards bringing that awareness back into the body, so that we can apply the wholesome powerful mental energies that we can produce with our mind, to re-establish some kind of balance and rhythm in a body which up until this point has quite likely been knocked for six, for many years, by the constant ramblings and turnings of the mind.

Can An Obsessive Mind Override Our Diet

Now I’m sure that we’re not all hugely obsessive people, boiling over in anger, consumed with passion and craving. Such people rarely make it to a meditation retreat. But we will all have some measure of these things interfering with the harmony and peace in our lives. So, at this point I want to give you a glimpse of the fact that this body depends so completely upon the mind and the quality of the mind for the way this body functions.
We are more aware these days than ever before of health, of how we might nourish our bodies, the shortfalls in the nourishment of our food, the challenges that our bodies are under from toxicity and geopathic stress etc. But our minds are just as obsessive as they’ve ever been, probably even more so. And all the measures we might make to refine what we put into the body by way of food, to make sure we don’t take on too many toxins, they will translate to little by way of improved health if you can’t refine the process that goes on in the body through the consciousness, twenty-four hours of every day, and never stops.

Next time you find yourself day after day obsessing about something that really upset you last week – even though it’s come to pass completely – just to give you some kind of prompt to give up such obsession, reflect on the damage your mind is doing internally by turning and turning and turning and turning, and think about what would happen to you by way of benefit if you were able to let go.

Is Meditation Worth All that Sitting Around?

As you learn to concentrate, the winds and energies of the body will settle down, and the body will start to relax all on its own, but at a very deep level. Not the sort of relaxation that comes when we throw ourselves into ignorance, but a deeper state of rest that comes with full awareness. And that’s our goal.

All of you are starting to get some level of settling down. There are some battles going on, there’s some turbulence, there’s a bit of kicking and rebelling, but all of you are starting to taste what it might be like to get really settled.

So just bear these things in mind throughout the day as we get under way. When you sit there and you think, “Oh I can’t concentrate. This is ridiculous, How can this be worth my while, sitting here all day long?” Just make a reflection on all those negative mental states and all the energy that is produced in the body on account of that – and just cut them off, with patience and determination. Stick to it!

The mind won’t stay still to begin with, just because you ask it to. It has this habit pattern of wandering off in search of gratification. It has this tendency to immediately turn away from things it doesn’t find comfortable – so you’ll have to work at it.

Why Is Meditation Compared to Ox Herding?

Like the farmer who takes his ox out of the field and into the wood at lunchtime when it’s time for his rest. And he takes his young ox to the lake where he takes a rest, and he ties the ox to the tree so it can’t run away while he takes a sleep. And this young ox, it pulls this way, pulls that way, tries to run and it can’t until it exhausts itself, so eventually it has to sit down. And every day the farmer does this; he ties the ox to the tree so he can take a rest and every day the ox tries to get away, pulling and pulling and pulling, until one day, the young ox realises, “What a waste of time, I’m getting nowhere with all this kicking and screaming,” and it chooses to just sit down at the tree next to the farmer. Now shortly after that, the farmer realises he doesn’t need to tie his ox up anymore.

Now getting started in meditation is very much like that. This ox is the wild mind – you have to tie it to a post, i.e. your breath. The rope is your strong determination at the beginning because your mind won’t want to stay there with the breath. However, if you do it long enough, until the mind realises that it is utterly futile to kick and scream, run around, to look for some escape route, it might just give up its kicking and screaming and settle down all on its own. Then you won’t have to tie it to the post with strong determination, you’ll just bring your mind to a single point and it will stay there, through choice. This happens naturally as your mind has started to realise that staying there, with what you are concentrating on, is infinitely more peaceful, infinitely more satisfying, bringing far more contentment, than any aimless and futile wandering around. And from that point of concentration and serenity, you can launch your mind out in any direction you wish, with a well focused mental energy that’s able to see things the way they are.

What is the Flavour of Serenity?

So in the early stages we have to work hard. But you’ll see, maybe you already have started to see, that the more you resist the tendency for the mind to want to run away, the more quickly you cut it off and settle it down, cut it off, settle it down, cut it off, settle it down, it will start to settle and choose to settle. And the more you taste the feeling of serenity, the less it will want to run away, the more you’ll be happy to be here in the moment. In this moment, this is all there is, everything else is just a figment of your imagination.

47 Minute Discourse on How the Mind Affects the Health of the Body

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