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Get out of your head
Q: How do you face problems arising from your mind?
I'm having one of those low-energy, low mood, “questioning the decisions I’m making” type of days. Nothing new or unusual about this. This has happened before and will happen again. My mental well-being tends to take a hit, especially when I've been scattering my energy all around and not spending enough time cultivating inner peace. I know from past experience that stepping out for a walk will shift things, but I have too much work to do and too little time to get it done. And school pick-up is in less than two hours. I know most of us, if not all of us, face days like these. We spend a majority of our life living in our heads, letting our minds create our thoughts and dominate our emotions and actions.
Questioner: It gave me peace of mind.
Maharaj: Did it? Is your mind at peace? Is your search over?
Q: No, not yet
M: Naturally. There will be no end to it, because there is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance, restlessness itself is mind.
...What has been attained may be lost again. Only when you realize the true peace, the peace you have never lost, that peace will remain with you, for it was never away from you. Instead of searching for what you do not have, find what it is that you have never lost. That which is there before the beginning and after the ending of everything; that to which there is no birth, nor death. That immovable state which is not affected by the birth and death of a body or a mind, that state you must perceive.
- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I AM THAT
I have noticed that the more days I spend away from my spiritual practice directly correlates to having days like these. It is my spiritual practice - meditation, self-reflection and contemplation of philosophical/sacred texts early in the morning - that grounds me, gives me confidence, strength and inner peace. When my mind takes over, it is my practice that gives me the motivation to step out for that walk, the inspiration to put words down on a blank page, the courage to embrace my insecurities and go on in spite of them.
So my question, dear reader, is this - How does a consistent spiritual practice (whatever that may be for you) help you circumvent the problems that your mind creates?
5:42AM! I was surprised to find myself awake at such an early hour on a Sunday. Should I go back to sleep or should I get out of bed? I had gone to bed early the previous night in a slightly bad mood because the week had exhausted me. I noticed myself getting irritable with my family a couple of times during the week which was an immediate sign that my mental well-being was off balance. This can be a slippery slope for me given my bouts of depression over the past decade.
With each passing year I have worked on getting better at paying attention to my emotional and mental health. In the past, practices like self reflection and social connection have helped ground me. This year though I have been trying to get out of my head and tune into the signals that my body sends me.
So that Sunday morning I decided to listen to my body. Maybe my body woke me up early because I needed to move and get in touch with nature to replenish my low reserves. I got out of bed, put on my walking shoes and headed outside hoping that the fresh air and the sound of birds would change my mood.
“Here is this vast, savage, hovering mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard, and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.”
-Henry David Thoreau, naturalist, philosopher, and author’s essay on Walking
Walking has been a big contributor to my physical and mental health. A stroll around my neighborhood where I take the time to notice the spring blooms immediately calms me down. I am lucky to live in an area that gives me quick access to nature. So that Sunday morning I decided to go for a walk at the Baylands. The Baylands Preserve is a 1,940 acre tract of undisturbed marshland. Fifteen miles of multi-use trails provide access to a unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats.
That day as I walked in silence, the cacophony of the birds filled my ears and immediately took me away from ruminating in my head. Seagulls filled the sky, flying overhead with twigs in their beaks, building their nests and getting ready for laying their eggs in May - I had to Google it because I had never seen so many seagulls above and on the ground before.
My four mile walk that morning rejuvenated me and helped me start the day from a calmer place. Each time I take the time to prioritize going out for a walk I come back renewed. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. I hope my post serves as a reminder to you to take care of yourself and try something as quick as a ten minute jaunt outside.
If you need more convincing, here are some of the many benefits of walking to our mental well-being -
Improve your mood
Reduce your stress
Improve your sleep
Boost your brainpower