Our worst fears begin and end in our mind. Every fear I’ve felt began in my imagination. With the safety and security our lifestyle allows, we have only once come close to a life threatening emergency.
Reality has never come close to the frequency, duration, intensity and physical reaction of the fear I’ve created in my own mind. My imagination is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. Everything I’ve accomplished in life has happened twice: first in my mind and then in real life.
Date: January 24, 2010 originally published Jan. 20, 1963
I can’t stop my mind from imagining things and don’t want to when I can benefit from that ability. I’ve developed a way to train my mind to interrupt my mind when it wanders off into imagined fears. I practice meditation almost every day and when I don’t, I feel the consequences. In the worst cases, I use the mantra “I can leave my body out of it” to stop the physical reactions triggered by my mind.
My meditation practice involves controlled breathing while sitting. You can sit in a chair or on the floor as long as your back is not supported by anything. First, I push my stomach out to inhale by expanding my diaphragm instead of feeling constricted when I try to expand my chest to inhale. Second, I use the basic mantra “o-m” by exhaling through my mouth with a short “o” sound, then closing my mouth and continuing to slowly exhale through my nose with a humming sound. The longer I practice the humming sound the longer I can exhale. By slowing down my breathing, making long exhales and full inhales with stomach/diaphragm I can begin to relax.
The practice also involves my mind. I close my eyes and do what I call “looking at the backs of my eyelids.” The result is to have my mind see darkness, which means I’m not imagining anything visual. My mind sees nothing. As I continue my controlled breathing and focus my eyes on the backs of my eyelids, I notice my mind begins to bring up thoughts. Sometimes they are things I want to remember or need to take action on something, so I stop and write them down. So part of my preparation is to have a pencil and paper handy.
Sometimes a thought isn’t one that I want to write down. Any thought that has some emotion attached that makes me feel anxious, afraid, guilty, sad, mad, angry or any of a million unwanted feelings, I work to push it away. I imagine shrinking the thought then it moves away from me into the darkness beyond the backs of my eyelids.
As I continue to practice this meditation, I notice that fewer and fewer thoughts present themselves. I’m not stopping to write anything down. I’m not interrupted by emotional thoughts that I have to throw away. I can take deeper and longer breaths. I’m able to enter into a more relaxed state of mind. Studies have shown that a person’s blood pressure goes down and their pulse slows.
When I'm relaxed and my mind is calm, I'm breathing slow and steady, then I practice connecting my feelings with a memory of when I've felt well, alive and really good about things. This is when I begin reinforcing positive thoughts. Sometimes one of those bad thoughts will interrupt me. I work it like I did the others. Then I work my way back to my state of positive thinking.
I find that the longer I can sustain my meditation the more benefit I get from it. I haven’t mediated from more than about 20 or 30 minutes yet. For me the most benefit is meditating on a steady daily basis especially before an hour or so before bedtime.