Finding Inner Calm and Deeper Wisdom

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There is Stress

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There will always be Stress. That is because Stress is a normal and natural part of the universe. There has always been Stress. Just the fact that we live on a ball of dirt and water, hurtling through space with gravity gluing us to its surface–is Stress. We might as well get used to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to continuously suffer from it.

The Problem with Stress is that we internalize it. We worry about it. We open our mind and allow it to come inside, where it proceeds to gnaw at us without mercy. The human mind has been doing that since we lived in trees. The answer to the Stress Problem is to NOT internalize it. Isn’t that easy?

Ah yes, that’s so easy to say, but not so easy to do. So, let’s break it down and make it a bit easier to do. “Internalizing” some external thing in our life actually and simply means “thinking about it.” If you think about it, you are internalizing it. If you don’t think about it, you’re not internalizing it.

This is where so many people say, “But not thinking about it means I’m just running away from the problem.” Thus, based on their idea of being mature and responsible, they think. And think, and think. And wear themselves out by thinking. Like a rat in a roundhouse, running around and around. Which is is a terrible form of self-torment, agony, suffering, and self-abuse.

Therefore, your clear solution to Stress is not thinking about whatever you have to worry about. Or, better yet, controlling your thinking machine so that it only worries when you want it to. I advise people to write down everything they are worried about, and then study that list for one hour at 7 p.m. Or at 10 a.m. in the morning. Or maybe for a half hour at noon. Whatever gives you the feeling that you’re being “responsible.” The rest of the time you have my permission to not think about all that stuff.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

April 22, 2019 at 10:25 am

Almost Sleeping

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Zen meditation is such a beautiful way of dealing with insomnia. Some practitioners actually look forward to insomnia if it ever happens, because that is a perfect time for practicing. More often than not, staying in the meditative state for a while will prepare you for sleep very nicely. And you may fall asleep while meditating.

But what if that doesn’t work?

There are times when you’re exceptionally stressed, and your mind is out of control. Or perhaps you’re dealing with pain you can’t escape from. In those situations, it seems like meditation just won’t work.

That has happened to me. A few years ago, I had a head injury that created a severe headache for about seven months. It was the worst pain I’d ever known. During that time I accepted that I was likely to die from it. Worse of all, the pain wouldn’t let me sleep. But during that ordeal, here’s what I discovered I could do to get some rest:

I would lie down and get in the most comfortable position that I could find and relax as much as possible. Then I would try to enter the meditative state. Some of the time it would work for a few seconds, sometimes for a few minutes. Occasionally I would get some lessening of the pain, but not always. But if I kept after it, the times I could keep my mind still would gradually lengthen. And I’d do that over and over.

During some of the periods of meditation, the headache pain would fade just a little. Then it would come charging back a few minutes later. Over and over, I’d repeat the attempts to meditate, and gradually I would find the pain would back off just a bit. Then at some point I would come fully awake and realize that three hours had gone by without my noticing it! The pain had not ever completely disappeared, but I had somehow escaped it for a while in a way I can’t fully explain. And while I might not have actually slept, it was something close enough to sleep that it gave me some rest.

I wonder if that sorta sleep I discovered during those months might have saved my life. It turned out months later, when the surgeons went in and fixed the problem, they said I might have been close to dying, indeed. Without all those hours of meditation and near-sleep, I might not have stayed around long enough to find the healthcare wizards who fixed me.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

April 6, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Can’t Sleep?

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NINE PEOPLE I know have told me in the last month they can’t sleep. During my haircut Saturday, my hairdresser Rae-Lynn was yawning so badly I worried she might accidentally stab me with her scissors. I asked why she couldn’t sleep, as I often do with yawning people. She had the same answer as the others: “My mind was racing and wouldn’t let me sleep.” What a shame.

I should do something about that problem. Because, if there’s anything I’m a master of, it’s sleeping. I can snooooze like you wouldn’t believe—I’m fortunate to have deep and restful sleep.

Sure, I had sleep problems caused by stress when I was in the military. Which was understandable, because back then I was certain that people were trying to kill me. But, an old Tibetan monk taught me how to calm down and go to sleep even when I was scared out of my wits.

Now, I can go to sleep under extraordinary pressure. So, I should teach my insomniac friends how I do it. I imagine that if I put some effort into it, I could do damage to the sleeping pill industry.

The trick is mind control: Learning to stop the thinking machine. Another word for that is meditation. I’ve been doing it so long that I can’t remember not being able to do it. It’s so easy.

Not long ago, I sat down and wrote everything I know about Zen meditation in a book. It’s called Original Zen and can be found on amazon.com in paperback. It is also an ebook you can download to your device. If there is anything in the book that doesn’t make sense, send me an email. I will do my best to explain it.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

January 24, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Using My Angel Hour

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Just in case you don’t know what I mean by my angel hour, let me define it. When you wake up at some time between 4 and 5 a.m. and you don’t feel sleepy, maybe you’re having an angel hour. Go ahead and meditate to stop your mind, and see if you can go back to sleep.

RelaxedGirlIf you can’t sleep, your deeper mind may be trying to tell you something. So continue meditating to slow down and/or stop your conscious thinking. Stay very relaxed and very still. Soon, you won’t be entirely awake but you also won’t be entirely asleep. That is a good state to be in.

That very relaxed state of half asleep is an angel hour. When it happens, stay with it. I guess during this state of mind, people think angels are speaking to them. Who knows. Maybe so.

You might receive valuable knowledge. Or perhaps answers to a problem that has been bothering you. Or maybe not. You never know.

In any case, it’s a good place to be. During that time, you’re getting both physical and mental rest. It’s nearly as good as sleep. Some times—maybe not all the time—but for sure some of those times, you will receive deep-mind information that you might otherwise never know about. Your deep mind understands things unknown to your conscious mind. Among other things, that can be pure wisdom. It also allows you to clearly see your own intuition that applies to some matter concerning you. In some rare instances, you might receive genuine enlightening experiences.

In years past, it took a while for me to recognize an angel hour. I would get annoyed that I couldn’t go back to sleep. But then, after I realized what was going on, I relaxed into it. And I was often rewarded.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

January 4, 2019 at 3:31 pm

How I Go To Sleep

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SleepingGirl

So many people have difficulty getting good sleep. I’m astounded at the huge industry of sleeping pills and other aids. I’ve never used sleeping pills in my entire life. You might think I’m just lucky. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Typically, when I go to bed at night or take an afternoon nap, I fall asleep in about ten or fifteen seconds. People have asked me how I do that. So for the last few nights, I “watched” myself during the process just so I could describe it.

Oh by the way, a short answer to that question is: Many decades of regular meditation practice and training my mind. But a thorough answer takes a few more words.

When I’m headed for bed, I usually start my mental “falling asleep” process well before I actually hit the sheets. I might be brushing my teeth or taking my clothes off, but I’m winding down the thinking machine. I’m telling myself, “Okay, now is not the time to be worrying about things. Let’s slow the mind down. Just quit thinking.”

That is the first part of my secret: actually preparing the mind for sleep well before bedtime. Maybe it’s the decades of self-training kicking in, but as I slow the mind down, I can sense the heavy feelings of tiredness, fatigue, and low energy flowing downward into my whole body. Thus, with my thinking mind very near to stopping and the body already aching for rest, I’m close to falling asleep by the time I slip into the sheets.

Settling into bed, I’m letting my body find the most comfortable position for sleep. For me, this is already a well-practiced position that minimizes pain and suffering from my old body and a few old injuries. Everybody needs to know his own body and how it can best be positioned to minimize aches and pains. So, unless I’m dealing with  unusual bodily stress, getting myself positioned for dropping off to sleep takes me only a couple of seconds.

And now, it’s time for my “mini-meditation” that I use for going to sleep. Once again, this is where the many years of meditation practice pay off. My mind does a relaxation scan in one or two seconds, and I can feel my body going limp from top to bottom. At this point, the world around me is beginning to disappear. Sleep is near.

Now I focus my remaining consciousness on watching my breath and my heartbeat. The breath is already slow and relaxed, and now it is gradually slowing even more. I can feel my heart beating in my chest, and I also notice it in my fingertips and my temples. The heart rate is also slowing, and I can detect a lower blood pressures. And that is usually the last thing I’m aware of. I am asleep. It is a deep dreamless sleep.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

September 14, 2017 at 11:31 am

The Animal Inside You

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A few weeks back, we introduced and discussed the two main “actors” on the stage of your mind: the Boss and the Thinker. If you remember, the Thinker is your good old conscious mind that wants to think non-stop when you’re awake (and even sometimes when you’re half asleep). The Boss is the higher you that tries to gain control of the Thinker whenever you want to get into the meditative state.

EdonVortex

Sitting on a Sedona vortex

With that clearly in mind, it’s time to introduce the third major player on the stage of your mind. I call it the Animal. Indeed, it is the actual animal within you. Physically, the Animal lives in the lower part of your brain known as the Limbic System. Although chiefly concerned with your survival, that part of he brain is also the center of your emotions.

Most of the time you’ll find that in a normal, mentally healthy, well-adjusted person (hah, how many people like that do you know?) the Animal stays mostly in the background. Thus, under most circumstances you don’t have to worry about the Animal during meditation. However, if the Animal is aroused and agitated for any reason, it may render you incapable of getting into the meditative state.

The Animal is so powerful that it can completely paralyze both the Boss and the Thinker—and do so very quickly. It can hijack the entire mind/body and take total and immediate control. That’s not entirely bad; it is an important feature that helped us survive. But it can be very bad if the Animal takes control and keeps control* to the extent that a person’s mind is unable to function as it should. That situation can be identified as one or another variation of mental illness.

For instance, if you have a fight with your lover, your Animal may be out of control for a while. If a loved one dies, the Animal howls with grief and prevents you from thinking or meditating for a while. If I tried to list all the possible situations in which the Animal can create havoc in your mind and keep you from achieving inner peace, this would be a very long (and boring) post.

From my experience teaching meditation, I know that trying to learn it while the Animal is loose and raging, is futile. To meditate, the Animal must be calm and resting comfortably—aware but not fearful about what is going on. Which might mean that, before you find a meditation teacher, you may need to see your therapist first and see what can be done about that snarling, pacing, agitated Animal that sometimes runs your life.

The good news is that, once your meditative practice is well established, oftentimes you’ll be able to use your meditative state to calm the Animal. In my own case, it took me at least ten times as long to learn to control the Animal compared to the Thinker. And even now my control of the Animal is not 100% guaranteed. But at least now I can usually hold the raging Animal on his leash and, after reminding him of his limits, let him loose to snarl a bit.

*Bad experiences in your previous life might have created trauma that left the Animal in you in constant pain and unconsolable suffering. That is called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which usually requires a special type of body therapy for successful treatment.

Prison or Paradise?

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I live day-to-day inside a paradise or a prison—depending upon what day it is. And/or what conditions I’m living in at the time.

The body can be a wonderful place. Its joys and pleasures are the subject of much of the world’s music and art. Eating a delicious meal, being intimate with a lover, spending time in nature—I could fill up the rest of this page with the joys of living life.

The body also can be a torture chamber. It is subject to sickness and diseases that inflict horrible pain and suffering. As soon as you reach adulthood, the body has already begun breaking down from aging. Its various failures begin to limit the joys and pleasures you otherwise might enjoy. Organs and limbs no longer work like they once did. You can’t eat this or that, and you can’t do many things you used to do. If you’re fortunate, your slowly deteriorating body gives you good days and bad days. Your chief focus is to get through the bad days and taste the joys—as much as possible—of the good days.

It gets worse. The older you get, the more bad days you have, and the fewer good days. Dammit, old age sucks. On some of the baddest of the bad days, you think about how nice it might be to be released from your body. To be free of your bodily pain and limitations. How wonderful it might be to move on to whatever comes after this. Of course, you don’t know for sure what comes afterward—if anything. But the chances are good that you would at least be released from this bodily torture.

So now, after all this whining and complaining, what am I offering you in return for reading my blathering? I always feel compelled to offer something useful—something positive—in return for reading my stuff. Okay, here it is: It’s Zen.

More specifically, it’s the Original Zen that was taught by Bodhidharma.

So here’s a question: What if I had to make a choice between all the pain meds and anti-inflammatories the doctor could give me—versus my Zen practice? Which would I choose? If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know the answer to that.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

August 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm