We have already described various forms of meditational practices, together with an explanation of the theory of meditation. For this reason we will not delve into the individual practices as such, but will concern ourselves with showing how meditational techniques can be used to remove mental problems.
As you become more competent in meditative practices and learn to relax more, you will begin to delve into your subconscious mind and will come face to face with strong thoughts and visions; many of these will represent your subconscious and suppressed problems. Do not worry if you don't have these experiences, for time and practice are both necessary before achieving some success.
You may become aware of some gruesome aspects of your mind. These must not be suppressed, but allowed to arise. They may create emotional responses such as fear; this is almost to be expected. But as much as possible you must tiy to watch these manifestations of the subconscious mind bubble to the surface without like or dislike, without any emotional link whatsoever. You must be aware of them. This is essential. If you fight them, resist them, or perhaps even enjoy them you will not be purging them. It is essential that you watch the occurrence with a feeling of total detachment. Imagine that they are occurring outside yourself. That is, you must tiy to develop the attitude that these occurrences are somehow separate to yourself. Don't identify with them for this will only push them back into the subconscious.
The mere fact that you are conscious of the subconscious manifestations with a detached attitude is in itself a powerful weapon in eliminating the hold they have over your life. The mere recognition of them with awareness is sufficient to remove the underlying, mental disturbances from your mind. In fact you have almost no choice - the problems are automatically scrubbed from the mind. Many people practise meditational techniques and may have no overwhelming confrontation with fearful data, yet after some time they notice a great change in their attitude towards life. The cleaning has been occurring but in more subtle ways. Some people, on the other hand, are suddenly confronted with a great gush of their subconscious problems. They may even be unhappy for some time, but again the overall result will be greater contentment in life. The experiences that you will go through only you will know. But whatever 'garbage' you confront and exhaust will definitely be beneficial; of this there is no doubt.
How does mere awareness of this subconscious data remove it from the mind? There may be a combination of reasons, but our belief is as follows. To explore the subconscious in the first place there has to be a reasonable degree of relaxation. Without a measure of relaxation a person's attention will remain externalized; it cannot go inwards to the inner world of the mind. Therefore, when this subconscious data is recognized you must be in a relaxed state. You have no choice. From your own experience in the external world you will know that when you are relaxed, events or confrontations with situations no longer have the same influence on you, as they would if you are tense. When you are relaxed you automatically see things in a new light. They have less adverse effects on your being. It is the same when you face your subconscious problems during meditational techniques. Besides recognizing them more clearly in the first place, they no longer greatly affect you and because of your state of relaxation and awareness you exhaust them. If you were tense and faced your inner problems (which is probably impossible) they would more than likely have a great influence on you and you would not exhaust them.
This method of confronting problems in a state of relaxation is widely used in psychiatry, as a method of exhausting a patient's conflicts, conscious or subconscious. It is called desen-sitization and will be discussed subsequently. The basic mechanics and idea is the same as in meditational techniques.
Though it may seem no more than playing with words, we would like to make one point clear; namely that subconscious data inherent in mental problems cannot really be removed from the mind. We often say that problems are or should be removed from the mind. This is merely an expression, for in fact all the data in the mind is permanently imprinted there. What we really mean when we talk about removing mental problems is that one's reaction to inner problems or memories is removed. For the purpose of explanation we can say that a mental problem is composed of two aspects: the actual data (i.e. cows) and the emotional response (i.e. fear) to that data. Therefore, when a mental problem is removed, what is really meant is that the emotional response has been neutralized. The emotional response is in a sense disconnected with the subconscious data. For example, perhaps one reacts with fear when confronted by a cow, perhaps because a big cow chased you when you were three years of age. When the problem is removed, perhaps by meditational techniques, the subconscious data still remains in the mind, but now the fear is no longer associated with cows. You will see cows, maybe even remember when you were chased by the big cow, but now you will no longer feel fear. This is what we mean when we say that mental problems are removed from the mind. The emotional response is neutralized. This may seem a technical point, and perhaps a little laboured and irrelevant, but we have emphasized it so that you more clearly understand the process involved in the cleaning out of the mind. This will also further clarify why it is important to recognize subconscious data with an attitude of detachment and awareness. It is in order to change your emotional reaction to subconscious problems, so that instead of experiencing negative emotions one feels indifference. In other words, the aim is to see your mental problems and in a sense overwrite, replace your usual emotional responses with another response which is devoid of emotional content - detachment. When you have no emotional response to subconscious data, then you have removed that particular problem. The aim is to neutralize, disconnect all negative emotions with all subconscious data.
The reader should not however make the mistake of assuming that all the purging of the undesirable elements of the subconscious mind occurs during the meditation practice. This would be totally incorrect, for the process of cleaning the mind occurs in a nebulous manner and at the most unexpected times in daily life. Somehow meditational practices and yoga techniques in general sharpen one's sensitivity to associations with outside events. This is a difficult subject to discuss and perhaps the best way is to give a concrete example. The following was an actual experience.
When a sadhaka was about ten or twelve years of age, fishing was the most gratifying and enjoyable preoccupation in life. The bait which was generally put on the hook was a maggot, the larva form of bluebottles called gentles. These were purchased by the thousands in a specially designed metal box from a local shop that catered exclusively for fishing. After a day of fishing it was customary to throw all the maggots in the river as feed for the fish and to empty the box. On one occasion the maggots were kept in the metal box with the intention of using them on the following day. But actually that following day did not arise for some reason. Maggots, as nature intended, have a natural habit of changing into flies. And just this happened within the confines of the box, but the boy did not know, for he was too preoccupied with other interests to even give it a second thought. Then one day he opened the box, curious to see what was in it. And he was petrified, for hundreds of black, buzzing flies surged into his face on their way to freedom. The mind is very impressionable at any age, especially when young, and that experience left a strong emotional shock and fear clearly imprinted in his subconscious mind. After a day or so the event was forgotten or suppressed, but the fear remained. It did not surface again to conscious perception until one day in the ashram. Early one morning after an hour and a half of yogic practices, he was idly gazing out of the ashram from a second storey room, when he spotted about twenty-five jet black pigs. There was almost an explosion in his mind and suddenly the vision of those multi tudes of flies emerged to conscious perception. The group of pigs had stimulated the emergence of tbis subconscious memory. An outside event had brought to conscious perception a long forgotten emotional shock. Had this occurrence happened when the sadhaka was tense and not relaxed then he would have probably felt some form of unhappiness or depression, without actually knowing the cause. The problem would have caused its damage and remained in the confines of the mind. But under the actual circumstances, he was veiy relaxed. As such, the problem in its root form came to perception and was exhausted. The impression of the pigs and the flies was shrugged off without the slightest emotional upset. Directly it was the stimulus given by the pigs, but indirectly it was the state of relaxation and the influence of meditational practices. This is an example from experience to illustrate how meditational practices and yoga in general work to exhaust problems in subtle ways. The reader may possibly have similar experiences.
Meditational practices also contribute to removing mental problems in a more positive manner. That is, they don't only lead to removal of emotional links with conflicts, but depending on the depth and proficiency of the individual they lead to joy and knowledge. This acts as a strong current that in a sense overwhelms one's mental problems and makes them seem unimportant. One is so much influenced by the joy and new knowledge acquired that one will begin to see life in a new light. One's attitude to other people and situations will change in a positive direction. A taste of meditation, real meditation, is so overwhelming that conflicts seem almost trivial and insignificant in comparison. This automatically leads to the removal and neutralizing of one's problems.
So if you want to find peace and joy in your life, we urge you in no uncertain terms to begin meditational practices now. And by this we mean asana, pranayama and relaxation techniques, for in our opinion these are really (if done properly) no less than forms of meditational techniques.
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