Did you know that in any one day you will thousands of thoughts? Neuroscientists tell us that our mind has a tendency to pay more attention to the negative thoughts/experiences and these are what cause stress in our lives. If you think about it, the greatest source of stress in your life stems entirely from your thoughts, not what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you. The continual internal dialogue going on in your head is what we call the “monkey mind”.
“Our Mind can be our own worst enemy or our best friend”
Chronic unmanaged stress can cause a multitude of conditions – contributing to high BP, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, digestive ailments, heart disease, to name just a few.
The scary thing is that we are not even aware of these thoughts and effects they have. We live a life of grasping, worrying, struggling, wishing. These are our negative thoughts.
While many things in life are beyond our control, one thing that is within our control is our own state of mind. By controlling our thoughts, we realise that we have a choice as to what we think, how we feel about something or someone, how we react to a situation.
When we realise this and start to take charge and change our thoughts for the better, then we have found the antidote for our own personal fears, anxieties, which cause limitations and boundaries which beset the human condition. To put it another way, by training our mind, we feel happier and more content.
The ultimate goal of any meditation is to train the mind, so that you can control your thoughts, therefore reducing stress and leading you literally to a happier and healthier life.
So, how is a Bikram Yoga class a 90 minute open eye meditation?
Have you ever been about to do a posture in a Bikram class and you think, maybe I’ll miss this one out I’m tired, hot and the teacher is bugging me? Then, for whatever reason, you just go – oh what the hell I’ll just do it – and the posture feels like one of your strongest ever?!!
Why? Because you had no expectations. Expectations are judgement, expectations avoid the present moment by using past experience and so they create limitations, not just in your yoga practice, but in your life.
Why do Bikram teachers tell you the same thing again and again, and expect you to listen even when, in fact, especially when, you are a regular student?
Because the teacher is trying to get you to break your own expectations of yourself to get you to listen and simply do. Only you can do this, the teacher cannot – but through the dialogue, the command and the heat, over time we break down our perceived limitations, which are caused by our thoughts.
To not always do what you did last time, but to apply the instructions to your body to remove any idea of limits and boundaries because they are living in the past and will stop you from moving forward. By simply listening to the instructions and putting them into your body, you truly are present, you are TRAINING your MIND to listen.
The goal of Bikram Yoga is to teach you to break your attachments to external things, to your past beliefs about yourself, to your past beliefs about your limits, your body’s capabilities, your fears, anxieties and weaknesses.
The common western understanding of meditation is that it involves a quietened, perhaps slightly darkened room, sitting possibly in lotus, or at least cross-legged, with eyes closed and no disturbances. This is an environment for meditation, but it is only one possible environment for meditation. You can meditate while you are washing the dishes, hanging the washing, playing tennis, eating your dinner. Meditation is a tool – it is not the goal – and there are many techniques you can apply, but every one of these techniques shares the same ultimate goal – training the mind.
How to Control the Monkey Mind
The only way to do this is to learn to control the monkey mind, to allow our state to become more receptive, so that it is open to see its own spirit – your true essence. And only you know your true essence, nobody else. To become more receptive, meditation is used as a tool to change your “normal” state that responds habitually to situations, based on what you think you know about yourself, your values, your limits, your monkey mind is so busy reinforcing all these that your spirit is lost.
And the ultimate goal of yoga is to find your true spirit.4