Mind over Matter

When I did a lot of Buddhist meditation in the past there was the saying “mind over matter.” As an example of “mind over matter” we would meditate for one or more hours – being guided through the meditation not to move any part of our body to the extent that my legs would go completely numb, and at the end of the meditation it would take 30 minutes or more before my legs could walk.

During the meditation it was evident that I was not the only one that found it hard to stay in the same position and not move, and the person leading the meditation would make the point about it being about mind over matter – in other words, if you focus on, for instance, a visualised point in your mind or you ‘followed’ your breath, you would at some point not notice the ‘matter’ – being that your legs had gone through pins and needles, to pain, to numbness.

As crazy as this may seem now, I did this for around 10 years – attended these meditation classes twice a week, and at one point I travelled to Nepal to a monastery to spend two weeks doing this a few times a day. During this 10 years I never experienced a comfortable meditation where I could feel I had conquered ‘mind over matter,’ despite having chats with some of the monks who said keep going, it will come… as in the end my body spoke louder than my mind in showing me that something wasn’t working for me.

I had originally started Buddhist meditation as I felt very stressed, anxious in life, moody, unable to sleep well and tense, and I had sought some kind of nirvana away from those endless stressful and worrying times. And looking back I realise that rather than deal with the stressors in my life, and look at the way I was living, I wanted the meditation to fix something or to bring relief in some way.

These experiences came back to me recently while in a workshop about health and wellbeing at work, and a colleague asked me “what do you feel about the ‘mental toughness/pushing through’ type of resilience that is often advocated in workplaces where the intensity is high?”

Now if he had asked me that 16 years ago, when I was doing the Buddhist meditation, I may have said – “yes there is something in that,” and shared how I did a meditation that advocated a ‘mind over matter’ approach to life. But on looking back at those times, that ‘mind over matter’ approach didn’t work for me.

And, furthermore, throughout those 10 years when I practised the Buddhist meditation, unbeknownst to me at the time, my physical body was getting sicker, as the practice of ‘mind over matter’ somehow gave me permission to ignore my pain, stresses, worries, anxieties and push through with visualisations and hope.

And during that whole time, I never considered, nor was I encouraged to consider, that my life was actually in my hands, and I was the one who could change my daily living choices, rather than seek relief from them. 10 years of ‘mind over matter’ meditation did my health more damage than I had realised at the time.

So my response to my colleague was that we can think that a ‘band aid’ such as a ‘mind over matter’ meditation, or a mental toughness form of resilience may seem as though it has potential, and indeed it may distract us from the root of our ills even further while we try and grasp the concept – but in the end, there is no substitute for listening to our own body and for taking an honest stock of the way we are living our lives, looking at the root of the stressors and strains, and starting bit by bit to make new choices.

On looking back now, one of the greatest things that supported my evolution from the ‘mind over matter’ type approach to life was the Gentle Breath Meditation™ – which is “simply a tool for reconnection through the focus on developing the quality of your breath.” (1)

What also turned my life around was attending presentations by Serge Benhayon who inspired me to realise that the way my life had been based on the choices I had made up to that point, and that the quality of my life and the quality and wellbeing of my body, was in my hands. Fourteen years on from first meeting Serge Benhayon, and from first experiencing the Gentle Breath Meditation™, I can honestly say there is no truth in mind over matter – or mental toughness.

The greatest place one can choose to be is deep within our own body, which I am finding is super supportive for learning how to make daily living choices that no longer have the stresses or strains they once had.

By Jane Keep, London, UK


  1. Unimed Living. (2018). Free Gentle Breath Meditations® download library | Unimed Living. [online] Available at: http://www.unimedliving.com/meditation/free/free-gentle-breath-meditations-an-introduction.html [Accessed 13 Apr. 2018].

Further Reading:
Meditation demystified
The Power of the Gentle Breath Meditation
Who Knew Meditation Could Be So Simple

528 thoughts on “Mind over Matter

  1. Being prepared to unearth the deeper motivations and reasons for why we do what we do can be exposing and sometimes ugly but it is the willingness to step out of the box & make changes that truly honour what we feel that builds true lasting confidence.

  2. To breathe is to live and the Gentle Breath Meditation offers a way to live that inspires us to breathe our own breath.

    1. Beautifully expressed Mary the gentle breath is the innate breath of a baby, it doesn’t need any silence or scenario or perfect position rather just us in connection to our souls.

  3. Perhaps the saying should be …” Matter over Mind” as there appears to be an intelligence about and within our body that us humans tend to want to override, control or numb ourself from feeling. Why not start with the body (matter) and then process this together with the mind… to establish a wiser, insightful, more informed awareness.

  4. We have to be honest here and admit that we love being “influenced by other forces . .”, as it gives us something to identify ourself by as we are then fully immersed in a story with ourself as the main character and we don’t really even mind whether it be happy or sad, good or bad as long as we are the central character .

  5. In the end, when we find the bandaid solutions aren’t holding or working, we realise it’s got to be a case of taking an honest stock of the way we are living our lives. The only way I have ever been able to make lasting change is to looking at the root of the stress, strain and illness, and start bit by bit to make new choices.

  6. And.. all my matter matters before my mind, not the other way round and my life has been deeply enriched for this wisdom to know all my matter as equal to my head.

  7. All of me matters, I am my matter, all my particles matter equally, these are the words that come to me from my whole being not just my head.

  8. We live in a world where we are trained from young to live from our minds, without knowing what actually is the source of what is in our minds. We are mostly dominated by our thoughts, ideals and beliefs and then identify with them as being who we are. No wonder that most techniques out there to deal with the tension this way of living unavoidably will cause, are there only to bring relief and not change our way of being. For if we reconnect to our body we will eventually have to admit that life is about energy first and foremost and all is not as it seemed to be.

    1. It is the only mediation that has any impact on me in any real way it was so starkly different to anything I had tried before. It was like an instant access to a deepth of stillness within.

      1. My first experiences with it were not as instant, rather I felt the constrictions and tensions in my body. When I recommend this meditation to others I tend to share this with them and to see it as a positive because it shows the reconnect to and therefor the awareness of the body.

  9. We have attempted to perfect life from our mind when we have everything we need inside. But like cocaine or heroin there is a very real addiction to this mentally driven way of being. It’s time we kicked it no matter what the detox is like.

    1. There is a lot of pride here too because we have heavily invested in a particular way of thinking/being. To be shown and then to admit we are wrong about it can bring an awful lot of stuff up for an awful lot of people. It takes and honesty and a willingness to be humble to let go of the addiction.

  10. Matter, as in our body, is absolutely what counts in this world… if it wasn’t for matter, there would be no mind.

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