Mental Balance

A balanced mind abides in the present moment.

To abide means to remain, continue, stay, dwell, reside.  The mind only knows now, this present moment.  There is no past or future.  Have I presented another paradox?  If the mind knows only the now then what is going on when I spend an entire day dwelling on past mistakes, losses or disappointments?  What is going on when I spend an entire night in fear and anxiety over future possibilities?  I am bringing the past and/or the future into the present moment and my mind will respond accordingly as will my body and my emotions.

When I abide in the past, whether the memories are filled with joy or trauma, my mind interprets it as happening in the present.  And if I abide in the future, whether I look forward with joyful anticipation or anxiety-filled dread, my mind thinks it is happening right now.  Aside from the physical and emotional responses that are triggered, I am totally oblivious to and missing out on the present moment.

Yes, there are times when the future or the past are appropriately part of the present.  When families get together and share laughter and joy while reminiscing, that is their present moment.  When a young family prepares for the birth of a child months ahead of its arrival, that is their present moment.  These experiences come and go and the attention returns to the beauty of the sky, paying bills on time, or preparing a meal that will be shared lovingly with the family.

The key is developing the ability to abide in the moment.  I come back to each person finding what works for them, what keeps them in the here and now.  For me, when I walk, my intention is to see, hear and enjoy my world.  I watch the sky, listen to the birds, say hi to neighbors and pet their dogs. I breathe the air and allow gratitude for my life, even when at present it is filled with challenges.

Years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggested on one of his tapes to walk very slowly to the phone when it rings.  As you walk, ask yourself if you can be fully present with the person calling.  If you cannot stop what you are doing and be only with that person, do not answer the phone.  Call them later.  (Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk living in exile.  The primary focus of his loving, compassionate teaching is mindfulness.)

The way to begin is to become aware of your own mental patterns.  It is important to embrace this awareness without judgement.  Awareness allows me to accept what I have been doing to avoid the present moment.  Once I accept that I have created these patterns, I can forgive myself if necessary and begin to create new patterns of mental behavior.

For many people, this process is enhanced through counseling with a professional therapist.  I am in this group.  There have been a number of times in my life when therapy was essential to finding and maintaining a healthy mental state of being.  Others need medication in addition because they live with a chemical imbalance of some type that must be treated in order for them to be able to experience healthy thought patterns.  Remember, the physical directly impacts the mental and vice versa.

May you learn to abide in the moment as you discover the balance of body, mind and emotions that allows you to do so.  Peace, tranquility and contentment will follow and also abide with you.


The Ego in Balance With The Soul

I am currently using a guided meditation program produced by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. It is titled “Miraculous Relationships.” Of primary focus is my relationship with myself because, in this context, I am the center. How I see myself and feel about myself determines the balance and well-being of all of my relationships.

In one of the meditations, Deepak Chopra says that my self-image is the result of who my ego thinks that I am. I have been thinking a lot about this because I have come to believe that one of the keys to a good life is a healthy, balanced ego. I have heard it said many times over the years that we have to overcome or do away with ego. These teachings never resonated with my soul. I have also known yoga/meditation practitioners whose goal is to release emotion. My experience with these people is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to interact and have a relationship with them. I can only love them as their personalities dissolve; it is as though they are disappearing.

Please hear me: I do not have all the answers. However, when talking with teachers I know, love, and trust, I am guided to balance and wholeness. Balanced emotions allow me to embrace life with passion while not being ruled by emotion. For example, I can experience deep loss and allow myself to grieve until I am finished grieving and not be devastated. I can admit that I am disappointed without letting that disappointment drag me into depression, hopelessness, or judgement.

Dealing with the ego is a bit more complex. In a private session with Richard Miller years ago, we spoke of ego getting in the way. He was the first one to clearly say that it is a healthy ego we need rather than a banished ego. Have you ever known someone with a lack of self-assurance or confidence who is, at the same time, arrogant and controlling? It occurs to me that the ego of this person rises up to hide that lack. It boasts and claims to be in charge to protect the person who feels less adequate than others. There is another possibility for those who feel insecure within themselves, who don’t know who they are. The ego can make them fearful of trying something difficult because they might not succeed. This was my issue when I was young. I was taught to be confident and things came to me rather easily through high school. Because of that, I didn’t have many opportunities to learn how to carry things through to completion whether I succeeded or not.  That began to change in college. When hurdles presented themselves, I felt overwhelmed and tended to quit rather than fail. Rather than being challenged from within to figure it out and find solutions, I gave up because somehow I thought successful people got it right the first time. My ego told me time and time again that I couldn’t get it right. It felt safer not to take many risks.

As I have played with this idea of self-image being who my ego thinks I am, I smile with the realization that my ego has become more balanced as I have stayed with my yoga and meditation practice over the years. Just as my emotions are healthier and I embrace life with passionate equanimity, my ego is healthier and tends to be more attuned to my Soul, my True Self. Ego is learning that I am this loving and compassionate being who currently lives in this body-mind but who is not defined by it. Ego is learning that expanded, enlightened awareness is not a threat to its existence. This Awareness is, instead, what allows ego to attune to and be in balance with True Self. The result that is emerging is a self-image based on the truth of who I am.

I am a spiritual being currently having a human experience. As my awareness expands, my desire to manifest love and compassion while in human form is supported by an ego getting healthier every day, an ego that “gets me.” I am laughing as I type that….is it happiness or is it my ego thinking it has fooled me into thinking I am enlightened once again??!!