Riveted many years ago by the words of Hindu teacher Krishna Prem in the Yoga of the Katha Upanishad I want to share with you: “Man is a citizen of three worlds, in which, even now, he has his Being.”
We live in three worlds that seldom connect with each other, that of Body, Thought and Emotion. The human dilemma lies in our inability to connect with more than one of these worlds at a time. Rather, during most of our waking life, one or another of these three is king of our inner castle, absorbing most of our attention. In other words, one part of us takes charge of the whole without awareness of the other two — until the situation changes and our whole being unconsciously pledges allegiance to another.
That means my energy can be caught like a butterfly in the net of the wandering or over-focused mind, or burst forth in ever-erupting reactions. Alternatively it can be dragged down into the aches and illnesses of my body. How to bring these three worlds together into balance as one whole, sane human being?
First of all, the Body-Being — the house we live in —is the launching pad for every effort we make, from the highest quality of thought and heart intertwined, to habitual, mindless functioning when we move along on automatic pilot. My turning thoughts can lead me from here to Timbuktu and back in an instant, dragging me away from a three-dimensional life here and now. And when I feel off kilter I often discover that I’ve become a reacting machine.
What to do? For starters, we can remind ourselves that we are tri-partite beings, but that one part sometimes takes over to enslave the other two and steal their energy. If I try to bring my body, mind, heart together in the daily experience of my life, I discover how hard it is to slow down the flow of turning thoughts, and that I have even less control of the reactions stirring in my chest. But — ahah! — when I turn to my best friend on earth, my body-being, and begin to attend to it with all I’ve got, thoughts and reactions begin to quiet down.
That’s where our hope of change begins. Any activity that engages body and thinking attention together, or creates a new feeling of ourselves, will lessen the one-sided chokehold of our parts.
Where to start? Perhaps the most prevalent state in many of us is a kind of diffused anxiety, an emotional state that impacts negatively on our physiology. Here’s a short description from Finding Time for Yourself (page 103) you may recognize:
We often waken to the unfolding of a new day with a fresh, unfettered mind for just a few moments. Then the memory of things we need to get done, people to see, problems to resolve, floods us with anxiety. Soon the morning becomes oppressive, filled with the knowledge of what we must do and the question, spoken or unspoken, of whether or not we can handle it all. As Joan Borysenko so astutely put it in Inner Peace for Busy People, “Your to-do list is immortal. It will live on long after you’re dead.
In my experience there’s a direct ratio between the presence of anxiety and my lack of body awareness. We need more Body Consciousness to oppose the many states of anxiety we get into. And don’t forget that anxiety and fear are two different things. When you face a challenging situation and your heart begins to pound, ask yourself, is there a lion in front of you, ready to pounce? Or are you expecting bad things to happen in some unknown future? Then ask yourself, “Where is my back right now?” Because we live mostly in front of ourselves, using our hands and eyes in continual functioning, we forget that there’s a three-dimensional being behind them. A powerful back is a great place to hang out for a while.
When I feel off-kilter I find it useful to ask questions rather than look for solutions. For example, when scrunched over at the computer with achy eyes from staring at the screen, I ask, “Where does my head sit on my spine?” and my thought will zip right up to the space in my skull behind my eyes and between my ears. Often my state of anxiety, which is also a state of tension, releases even a little bit. I discover that, in trying to connect my parts, questions are more important than answers. They bring us to the edge of our chair with wondering, while answers somehow invite us to forget about what we just learned because now we already know all about it.
I interviewed neurobiologist Daniel Siegel for a neuroscience article in Parabola magazine. The expert on neuroplasticity told me, “If we can change our thoughts we can change our brain.” By that, he meant quite literally changing what you might call the ‘hardware’ in our heads. Here are seven ways of taking time for ourselves that he says support our wellbeing and help us return to balance every day:
- Sleep time – A full night’s restful sleep
- Each day you need Physical time to let your body be active
- You also need Focus time, which he describes as Alone time to concentrate on what matters to you.
- Then what he calls Time in –for meditation, prayer, or self-reflection
- And Time out –to simply to be present and rest your body/being.
- We definitely need some Play Time –to have fun and enjoy ourselves.
* Finally, Connecting time between you and those you love.
There are no surprises here, but do we do it? We could get started today by taking a baby step toward wholeness!