Know yourself. Understand how you work, how your thoughts control and your body follows, how your mind speaks and your soul weeps for recognition. How can you truly know and understand another if you have not fully known and understood all the things about yourself that keep you such a mystery? Why do you do the things you do? Ask yourself—ask your mind and body and soul. That is where the answers lie, not with another being whom you profess all to, but with yourself whom you hardly know, yet with whom you have already traveled a long road. Get to know yourself, your most trusty traveling companion through life, that strange and wondrous being that you are!
Care of the body often overrides care of the soul and care of the soul often leaves the body sitting unattended. Care of both body and soul are appropriate and necessary, especially as they need each other during the duration of life. You can’t have one without the other. Don’t forget that you are of two parts, each needing the other’s support and acceptance, without which there is no unity, only the feeling of discontent leading to the sense that you are missing something. Well, what you are missing is right inside you, body and soul constantly seeking each other in an eternal struggle within. Now isn’t that something! What you’ve been seeking has really been inside you all the time. It’s you! All of you! Right there!
Soul searching, the act of seeking connection in the world of reality, is often misdirected outwardly toward another being, but really it is the search for one’s own soul, the other part of the self that resides upon earth in the physical body. For you are a spiritual being residing in a human body, upon the earth for reasons that your spirit knows but your body has no idea of. Rediscover and merge with your own spirit and you will discover the deeper mysteries of the self, your own true benevolence within, and your true reasons for being. Though it may sound simple enough to do, it is often the work of a lifetime. Perhaps you will discover that the real reason for everything is soul searching indeed!
“Digestion begins in the mouth! Digestion begins in the mouth! Digestion begins in the mouth!”
That was Jan’s 5 am recapitulation of a third grade memorization at St. Mary’s, sixty children loudly responding to the question from their teacher-nun, “Where does digestion begin?”
What prompted this discussion was an effort we’ve been making to memorize an affirmation that Robert Monroe had formulated for safe out-of-body travel. It’s been a long time since either of us has taken up the task of memorization! Of course, shortly after that discussion we encountered that affirmation again in our morning reading. A specific portion of it was cited as being essential for out-of-body practitioners to enter a whole new dimension of exploration!
Simultaneously, I was drawn back to Swami Vishnudevananda’s classic book, The Illustrated Book of Yoga, where I remembered having read about the very specific relationship between the breath and the mind. In a nutshell, I’ve come to the distilled proof: You can’t breathe and think at the same time!
Obviously, this “proof” is not completely true. We don’t completely cut off respiration when we think, but concentrated thinking does significantly slow, and sometimes halt, respiration for significant periods of time.
This proof can easily be tested. Take a moment and purposely and intensively focus your attention on any sound in your environment. Notice what happens to your breathing as you do so. My experience is that my breathing slows down or pauses as I concentrate on the sound.
The same relationship with our breath holds true when our mind becomes attached and preoccupied with a thought; breathing slows down or is halted for a period of time. Therefore, if you want to shift yourself away from a burgeoning thought fixation, turn your attention to breathing. Take in a slow deep breath. Do several of these slow deep breaths and you will break the fixation of the mind on its thoughts and feel revitalized within your physical body in the bargain!
As I see it, the mind is a separate body from the physical body. The mind, or mental body, actually resides in the energy body, a body separate and distinct from the physical body. When people say they have been out-of-body during waking life, off daydreaming perhaps, it generally means that their mind, or mental body, had scooted away from the physical body and gone off with the vital energy the body takes in when we breathe, what the yogis call prana. While the mind concentrates, consciously or unconsciously, on its thoughts, the body is shortchanged of its normal intake of oxygen, diminishing the vital energy of life as it is completely monopolized by the mind.
The body is often rigid, constricted, tense and immobile during intense preoccupation with thought. If the body is simultaneously in motion, it operates like a plane without a pilot, subject to collision and injury, much like the Absentminded Professor!
Actually, the mind does often utilize the physical brain when it thinks, which is why overthinking generally causes overheated brain circuits and headaches. The mind does not need the brain to function as is evident in out-of-body exploration when the energy body journeys beyond the body and uses the mind quite naturally to navigate its course. However, we can be in the physical body using the mind/brain connection and still be cut off from, or beyond connection with, the physical body.
When the mind is intentionally directed to the breath, however, the prana or life energy it has monopolized is dispersed throughout the body, in each conscious breath, reducing the anxious concentration of energy in the mental body, a frequent generator of high anxiety. So, as is highly recommended for all cases of anxiety, breathe and become calm!
And so, taking a tip from Jan’s childhood memory: Calmness begins in the breath! Calmness begins in the breath! Calmness begins in the breath! Perhaps the nuns of St. Mary’s might give that chant their stamp of approval!