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
- 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].