“The teachers tell us that in the beginning the mind seems like a waterfall, its noise becoming louder as a result of our going inward to observe it. Then, with practice, the mind becomes like a rushing mountain stream, agitated but not as noisy as a waterfall. Gradually, it becomes like a lazy river flowing through the flat plains, easy and quiet. In the final states of practice, it becomes like a river reuniting with the still, deep, stable ocean.” – Elliott S. Dacher, M.D.
I’ve been working with Dr. Dacher’s relaxation exercises for a while now (a couple years). The Subtle Mind exercise is one of my favorites! It’s simple and easy but so effective. He describes the two aspects of the mind: first, the ever present still and clear mind and second, the ever changing moving mind. The still and clear mind is usually obscured by the moving mind. The exercise teaches us how to tame and witness the moving mind rather than grasp and attach to it. Then to extend and sustain our mental control in order to achieve the still mind of calm-abiding. Finally, stabilizing calm-abiding gradually evolves into unity consciousness and pure awareness (no can say I’ve been there!) It’s more common for me, especially right now, to just not be able to settle my mind. But at that point, I have to be satisfied with observing how agitated my mind, body, and life actually are. It’s a sad, but good reminder.
Usually finding the calm, witnessing mind is an easy task but this week it’s been much more difficult. An enormous amount of stress has made relaxing a daunting task. Makes me wonder how much worse it would be without the benefit and assistance of the exercises. Some days it’s been extremely difficult to keep my mind from grasping at random thoughts. Interestingly I never have feelings or visions, only thoughts. This is a wonderful practice that definitely relaxes me, centers my body, and clears my mind.
Spiritual wellness is acknowledged less in Western society than mental and physical wellness, but together they are the keys to optimal health. Each key opens the locks to the other pieces until instead of closed boxes there is a big, open room. This is very much needed in my life. Although physical wellness is now a maintenance process for me, I find I receive more from the practice if I am mentally and spiritually focused on the physical wellness. The same is true for my mental wellness being opened by physical activity and contemplative practice. My spiritual wellness activities allow the clearing of my mind for new mental practices and the relaxing of my body for new physical practices. When any piece is out of balance, all three can suffer. This week has been proof of the necessity to focus on all three even if one seems more pressing at the moment.
I will post Dr. Dacher’s book, Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing if you would like to learn more about closing the gap between modern medicine and ancient wisdom.