The Way of Seeing® -- a simple, practical path


On Not Getting Tense

The following dialogue occurred during a group meeting with Ken Russell.

Ken: (Introductory remarks to group sitting quietly with eyes closed.) Reading from Maharaj's "I Am That":
"When the mind is kept away from it's preoccupations it becomes quiet. If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it, you find that it is permeated with a light and a love you have never known and yet you recognize it at once as your own nature."
Just sit with that with your eyes closed for a moment.
(After a few minutes) "When the mind is kept away from its preoccupations" This is the operational key here because the mind always wants to lead you on various trips, worries, fantasies, plans, etc. but when the mind is kept away from its normal activities, its concerns, its constant need to keep you involved with it, you will break its momentum and it will become quiet. "If you do not disturb this quiet," this is also a key part because initially the quiet is not necessarily experienced as a good thing by the mind. The mind has gotten addicted to its melodramas and excitements and anxieties.
So part of what we do in here in this meditation class is to acclimate or familiarize you with quiet. Quiet is part of our inherent nature but we have been conditioned to avoid it, being labeled boring or feeling anxious because not accomplishing anything. You will come to see how nourishing and healing it is. It is peculiar that the desire for quiet needs to be an acquired taste.
"If you do not disturb this quiet and stay in it," if you just rest in the quiet, "you find that it is permeated with a light and a love you have never known and yet you recognize it at once as your own nature." The only thing that stops us from realizing what we are, which is something so wonderful that is beyond the ability of words to describe, is the continual occupations of the mind. The mind essentially deprives us of our birthright, our intrinsic nature.
It is important to see that the mind is also fueled by unacknowledged emotions and feelings we have, sometimes going back to childhood, sometimes actually going back to the womb. So this process is designed with the tuning in to help you get in touch, experience and release these feelings. Doing this is a major contribution to creating quiet in your life. This quiet is most valuable.
I can tell you from experience, Maharaj is not bullshitting you. So that if you can, manage to keep away from your preoccupations, and sink into the quiet and hang out there long enough, you'll discover something rather wonderful that will change your life.
Man: So to keep from indulging in any sort of thoughts, whether they're positive, like fantasies or beating up on ourselves, don't encourage or play with any of it, correct?
Ken: Yes, exactly. Because putting your attention on thoughts and getting involved with them removes you from reality, especially from yourself. Of course, sometimes thought is necessary, like on your job you have to think, or if you're purchasing or evaluating something. But the trick is to just use thought when necessary and not get involved when thought is not needed.
Man: What do you mean by not needed?
Ken: Much of the time we do not need our thoughts. If we are taking a walk or a hike or just sitting quietly. What is the purpose of allowing the mind engine to keep cranking out thoughts? Just watch your day and you will be amazed at how much thinking you do that is unconnected with whatever is happening in the moment. You will also notice that the thoughts are repetitive, they tend to go in the same direction repeatedly, often with similar commentary.
When thoughts happen you just notice them without getting involved, that is all.
Woman: You just keep noticing when you have the thoughts. I was hiking the other day and my mind was going and I was like, "shut up mind, just be in the space" So you just have to notice it, I know not "shut up mind" that was extra, in general you just want to keep noticing it like, "Oh, there are thoughts", and not take it to the beating up, which I do.
Ken: When you say, "Shut up mind" then your mind says, "the hell with you" or "Later, I'm onto something right now" and so you have this conflict and you have to lose. The trick is simply to put your attention on something other than thoughts. You're hiking right? I imagine you're not hiking in Seattle?
Woman: No, in beautiful forest.
Ken: Right, so you have this beautiful forest to be attentive to. The play of light on the leaves, the gentle sway from the wind, perhaps the sounds of birds. Just simply put your attention there, instead of fighting with the mind or indulging your thoughts. What's the sense of hiking in a beautiful forest if you're thinking?
Woman: And the funny thing is, it used to be a place I went to get good creative, exciting thoughts about what I'm doing and now I just want to escape because I'm preparing for a (professional) exam. So I need that hour away from thinking. It's not that I want to be thinking, it just keeps happening.
Ken: Why do you choose hiking as a way of finding quiet?
Woman: I find that it is the best thing for me to get rid of all the tension I have built up and it really helps me to recharge. What happens is that I study in the morning and my brain just gets really full.
Ken: How do you build up tension?
Woman: From studying because this exam is important.
Ken: But how does that become tense?
Woman: Because I'm really focused and when I get really focused I forget to stay relaxed.
Ken: Ah, so does that suggest a better approach?
Woman: I take little breaks when I think of it.
Ken: When do you think of it? And who's going to do the thinking?
Woman: The mind. The mind's kind of preoccupied with the studying.
Ken: Well, but you know the mind, right? So just get a little timer that goes off every 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes. Because it's much easier not to get tense in the first place, then it is to get tense and then have to work at reducing tension. I don't believe in stress reduction as much as in stress prevention. Just watch yourself, see how and when you get tense, and then undermine the tendencies that make you tense.
Woman: And undoubtedly this is going to sound like an excuse, but I feel compelled to say it anyway. What happens is when I get really going I hate to disturb that because I have a very short attention span so it's very easy for me to bounce all over the place, but when I'm really going I get a lot accomplished.
Ken: What do you mean by "going"?
Woman: it's coming, I'm writing some essays that are part of the process and my thoughts are coming and I'm getting it and I'm focused, I hate to interrupt that. I know I'm just making an excuse. it's not that common for me, it only happens once or twice a day.
Ken: Ok, so when that happens honor it, but it doesn't happen that often. But I'll bet that if you were to take more time to connect to something deeper than your mind, your mind's attention would improve. You would tap into buried reserves or resources that would be available to help you. Somehow we have learned this hothouse, forced approach when a more leisured one might work better.
Woman: Okay, but I get tense before situations where I'm being tested.
Ken: Truly, it's far easier not to get tense than to deal with tension once it's there. Because with tension, there's thoughts, the physiology gets involved, the hormones, the muscles, everything. So just play around with the various ways you have learned to shift away from the mind. I have seen time after time when professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountant, managers, etc. do this, their work actually improves. They get more done in less time because something deeper directs the flow. So, play around with this and let me know what happens.

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