Mental And Emotional Poise
You may eat the finest food, get daily exercise, sunshine, fresh air, pure water, proper rest and sleep, live in a near-perfect climate, and yet be miserable and unhappy. Why? Because life is more than bread alone, more than creature comforts, more than well-disciplined physical health procedures. Total health and well-being depends upon so many factors—each important and necessary.
Each demands a share of our time and energy. But, unless we watch our mind and emotions at work, our psychological responses, our inner urges and demands, a complete state of health and happiness will surely elude us. This is to say that the physical and mental are tied together as one. They are not separate. But, much of the time we treat them as if they were. Actually, we can only separate them for the purpose of discussion. Since, as Dr. Shelton has remarked, “The human being is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual unit, and not a mere bundle of separate and more or less antagonistic elements.
Health is a matter of vital, nutritive and physical hygiene.” So let’s examine that part of us which is not too often talked about at our conventions, or written about in Hygienic literature. Perhaps this may be because of the complexity, the vastness, and the difficulty usually experienced in trying to explain it satisfactorily. By no means do I consider myself an expert in this field. I am merely a bystander, noticing what is going on with myself, wondering about it, and asking questions which have led me to some rather satisfying answers over the years. I would like to share them with you. Let’s begin at the beginning.
What is it that most of us are seeking? What are we after? Why is it that we often go from one religion to another? Why are we engaged in trying different disciplines, gurus, masters and mystics? Could it be that most of us are searching for a permanent state of peace, happiness, satisfaction, security, or the ultimate: God? Whatever it is, it is described by many names. But, since the name is not the thing, it really doesn’t matter what we call it. Maybe we could simply refer to it as permanent happiness. Before we get involved in the search, as to whether there is such a thing, should we not want to understand the person that seeks this happiness?
In order to know the seeker, I must first know myself. I must want to see how my mind works: why I think as I do, react as I do, and so on. No book, no person, regardless of how intelligent, gifted or famous can help me. It’s a do-it-yourself process. I must see it for myself, first hand. No other method that I know of has been found that works unless I step in the direction of knowing myself. If I can see that my mind works as it does, because of my conditioning, I have taken a giant step towards freedom and eventual transformation.
Conditioning is the cause of my beliefs, my patriotism, my politics, my attitude towards others, and towards the world. In fact, I am the world! Getting in touch with this knowledge of myself reveals why I think in the particular way that I do. It exposes to me the background of all my thoughts. It enables me to perceive the reasons for my hurts, bitterness, jealousy, and disappointments. It reveals the source of my conditioning, which lies behind all my relationships.
Tracing Our Conditioning
We come into the world, as a baby, equipped to start life as a human being. Within us are all the human characteristics and attributes which have been in existence for over two million years. Along with these, we also inherit the tendencies and instincts of the animal. They go back and back, into the timeless past, perhaps to the origin of life on earth. And, before that, to life in the sea, where it is possible that all life began. Our subconscious or unconscious mind contains the images and memories that lead to self-preservation, fear and violence. These are gleaned from the lives of our ancestors who have preceded us.
From the moment of birth, or even before birth, we begin to gather knowledge through our senses. We learn by observation, imitation and instruction. The conscious mind now makes its appearance. It becomes evident that both subconscious and conscious are one. History and further study reveals that in spite of some two million years of human life, and 2,000 years of religious training, the animal instinct of even the cream of society is still the driving factor. In the course of time we are cautioned to resist these animal emotions as they come up, and to subdue them or control them.
To get this message across to us, we are instructed in various ways. In religion, for example, we absorb the instruction through pictures, sayings, books and in places of worship. Depending on where we grow up, in what part of the world, we learn about Jesus, Allah, Buddha and so on. So that, at an early age the Christian child has no doubts about Christ being the true God. In turn, the Muslim boy or girl will think of Allah as being the only God.
And, as a member of a Buddhist family, the youngsters grow up regarding Buddha as the Most Compassionate One. Children of other religions are also brought up in a similar way. Thus, each child is indoctrinated with the faith and beliefs given to him by his parents and teachers. As they grow and mature, most of them stand ready to lay down their life for these beliefs. Conditioning is now well underway.
It goes on in every area of our lives, from birth to the grave. It colors our thinking and actions. It touches our lives in so many subtle and obvious ways. It motivates our feelings, our political leanings, our way of speaking, walking, eating, going to the bathroom, and even our dreams.
I Really Don’t Know
As we grow up we begin to take a stand on issues. We gather a few facts and figures and then come to a decision. It’s either right or wrong, so help me God. Our decisions become more solid as we grow older. With some of us, we write them in granite. We become fixed as the stones on which they are inscribed. We defend and justify them, sometimes even to the end.
Examples in any field could be used, but since we moved into our conditioning through religion, mentioned before, let’s pursue the matter further. For instance, some say emphatically that there is a God. Others, just as strongly point out that there is no God. Both cannot be right. If one is true, the other is false. To see the truth, we are not in a position to accept or deny. If we do either, that ends the investigation. To find out for sure, I must admit that I do not know. I really don’t! True research begins from there.
Now, how do we go about our search for the truth? Much depends on how we investigate, but even more important is—how do we listen? Say we go to a lecture or talk. The speaker says something. Immediately we tend to agree or disagree. Or, we compare him with someone else, and what he is saying, with something we may have read or heard. Accordingly, we nod and shake our heads.
Throughout the talk our mind continues to talk also. Have you noticed how the mind is continually yakking with us? This constant chatter of the mind causes our attention to be divided between what the speaker says and what our mind is saying. If our listening is to put us in touch with the facts, we must give our entire attention to what is being said. In this way, and this way only, do we come to understand the speaker and what he is really saying. We find ourselves agreeing or disagreeing according to our conditioning.
Listening, that is proper listening, demands that we be aware of what is being said without the bias of our conditioning. In other words, being aware, without choice is necessary to get the full impact. I must neither agree nor disagree, as I listen. I must not judge or evaluate to any degree. I must listen, pay attention, be aware, with my whole heart, mind, body, nerves, senses, everything! If I am able to do this, I see that eventually my mind and its chatter slows down. I listen and watch my thoughts as they pass through my mind, as I would watch a movie. I greet each thought as a friend.
Welcome it to my mind. Investigate it. Challenge it. Question it. Pursue it to the very end, without hurry or anxiety. See it for what it is, and then let it move on, pass away, drop dead, to return no more. If I am successful in following each thought from rise to fall, I soon begin to take notice a slowing of the thinking process. This entirely normal way of handling thought is within the ability of everyone. After a period of time, perhaps several weeks, a month or so, depending on your interest and attention, the mind becomes silent. Thinking comes to an end. There is no further chatter to disturb our listening and observing. If, perchance, a thought does enter the mind, see it for what it is, treat it hospitably, and let it die away. These moments of non-thinking will gradually lengthen. The ease of doing this extends itself.
This could be called a state of pure listening, pure observing. Pure because there are no thoughts to contaminate the mind while it is listening and attending to the speaker, or the situation at hand. So far as I know, this is the only way to be in direct touch with a speaker. It works effectively when used in any situation or relationship. You don’t have to use any effort to do this. It happens by itself. There is no method or system to bring it about. One merely listens, watches, observes, becomes aware, gives his complete attention to the thought at hand, to the feeling experienced, and notices its passing.
Understanding our thoughts leads to further understanding of ourselves. And, by understanding ourselves, we can better understand the other fellow. Eventually, this culminates in a radical change or transformation within, which radiates outward, and extends to every facet of our life. So that the things we are unhappy about, clear up in the process of daily living. We don’t have to use willpower, control or any tricky stuff. Pure listening and observing without the distraction of thought, puts us in touch, moment by moment, with exactly what is taking place.
There’s More I Must Learn
There’s a lot more to experiencing mental and emotional poise. I must find out who I really am. I must discover that the ego, the self, the “I” is not an entity, but merely my memory. That thinking is great when applied to everyday use, for solving problems, technical engineering, finding my way home, recognizing friends and family…but it gets in the way when we want to observe, be aware and sensitive to life that is going on all around us. Poise means balance, equilibrium, stability, ease of mind and body.
Learn more about health
Mental and emotional poise is a normal state of being, in which we experience harmony and ease within ourselves. It does not mean we have no challenges or problems. We are faced with these even in the vigorously healthy state of being at peace. It means we need not be hurt or disturbed in any way by them. It means also that life is a joy, and each moment offers us another opportunity to learn, to love, and to understand.