Our Defenses: Intellect
People have many reactions and defenses to keep from realizing truths about themselves. One thing we do a lot is rationalize: to twist the truth around so that we see only what we feel like looking at. Another thing we do is project the blame at another person: the age-old, “But he started it!”
With our intellect, we deny our Psyche the chance to speak. We deny the existence of anything we cannot see or touch with our hands. Intellectual reasoning is definitely necessary in order to function in this world, but because it is limited to obvious, tangible evidence, we must be able to go beyond it! There are truths which we cannot grasp with our intellect alone. The unconscious has nothing to do with rational thought. (Just take a look at your dreams!) The Psyche speaks in riddles, which can only be solved with an open mind that can accept intuition as reality. Sometimes, when you stop trying to figure it all out, and just let it be, then you will suddenly understand!
Another thing we try to do with our intellectual defenses is to stifle our emotions. That won’t work either! When suppressed, emotions blow totally out of proportion until they become unmanageable. Being overwhelmed with emotion, be it pleasant or unpleasant, drains you of all objectivity and clarity of thought. For example: When you are in a bad mood, it is impossible to think of anything as positive, and likewise – if you are in a good mood, you have to ignore everything negative in order to stay in your bubble.
With all this struggling going on inside you – between your intellect and emotions, between your ego and the egos of others, between what you are and what you wish you were… it is very important just to sit quietly and feel what’s going on inside.
But instead of doing this, a lot of people try to drown out all these struggling voices by adding other voices on top of them! They are simply terrified to be alone with themselves. They surround themselves with company, they listen to loud music, or they watch TV constantly – violent programs to feed their aggression, or soap operas to help them ignore their own problems by worrying about the lives of fictional characters.
The best thing to do is, once in a while, turn off the TV, turn off the music, sit by yourself and listen to the birds chirping, and the wind rustling through the trees. Because underneath all of this struggling lies Psyche, your soul, and the answers to your problems. She is deep inside you, waiting patiently for all the voices to quiet so that she can speak clearly, tell you what you need to do, and give you the strength to do it.
What is Meditation?
A lot of people, when they hear the word “meditation,” think of people with shaved heads chanting “ommmmm.” Certainly this is one way to meditate, but meditation is really just finding the peace inside oneself and residing in it. Meditation is important to combat stress and mental fatigue, as well as a way to bring unrealized truths out from within you.
Like sleep is to the body, so is meditation to the mind. It rests and revitalizes the spirit, and you come out feeling stronger, calmer, and better able to handle stressful situations. Don’t expect to have out-of-body experiences or revelations from God – though you might, but that’s not the main point of meditation – just as your dreams are not the main reason for sleeping!
A good way to meditate is to sit peacefully and listen to the rain pattering on the roof, but people find meditation through exercise, or manual labor such as gardening, shoveling snow, cooking or cleaning. Others find peace by doing artwork or chanting on beads. The best thing to do is whatever comes naturally to you, maybe something you’ve enjoyed doing as a child, such as hunting for four-leaf clovers or flying a kite. If you do most any activity with spiritual intention, with the higher purpose of cleansing and resting your spirit, the benefits from the activity will be multiplied.
A beautiful spiritual practice is sitting meditation. In the west, it is also known as quiet contemplation. It often follows prayer and chanting exercises. Sit comfortably (with the back straight is healthiest) and listen to your breath going in and out. Your breath came with you into this life, carries you through each moment in life, and leaves you as you go out of this life. So, your breath is very important for concentration in meditation.
The goal of sitting meditation is to have complete silence in your mind, but this does not happen immediately. In fact, it may take several periods of meditation before you can attain even one moment free of thoughts. But that moment is really beautiful!
Don’t try not to think, because that is a thought in itself. Picture yourself as a mountain, and all your thoughts as clouds drifting by. Don’t cling to them, just watch them go by, and then bring your focused attention back to your breathing again. If you begin to doze or drift off into daydreams or worries, just gently bring yourself back into consciousness. One good way to help yourself to not drift off, is right before you start, make a little vow to yourself to sit quietly and focused for ten minutes or whatever amount of time you wish to meditate. In time, your thoughts will slow down automatically, gradually becoming less and less, until all you hear is the crystal silence inside yourself.
You can also practice meditation while doing chores or walking to school, or sitting on the bus. Do whatever you’re doing with focused attention on your breath, and be at one with whatever task you are performing. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but you will find that your work becomes much more pleasant this way, and gets done more carefully. Be awake at each moment. Not only when you are doing sitting meditation, but with everything you do, be aware and conscious of what you are doing.
When meditating, it is important to be a witness of yourself. Watch yourself breathing. If you are a witness to yourself, you will be less likely to be carried away by thoughts and daydreams. If you feel discomfort, just be a witness of it, don’t start getting involved with it. For instance, instead of thinking, “My leg is asleep! Oh it feels so strange! What should I do?”, just be aware that your leg is asleep, and don’t be bothered by it; or, should it become too uncomfortable to bear, simply move your leg, still with attention focused on breathing, deal with the situation calmly and purposefully until it is resolved.
Developing the strength to become a witness of yourself will positively affect every aspect of how you handle life.