Journey to becoming better human being – 16 : How can I influence my mental state?

Journey to becoming better human being – 16 : How can I influence my mental state?

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Dr. Parimal Merchant

Experience of Peace and the fact that I can influence my mental state by changing the body posture were good learning in the retreat so far. I was looking forward to learn more about the relations between mind and body and methods to influence my mental state. I wanted to know if there was any way to change at will, from disturbed mental state to calm. That will be a very useful learning.

“The mechanism of our body and mind is controlled by four centers. The lowest being Vegetative center, next Motor center, next Emotional center and finally highest is Intellectual center.

“The influence goes from Vegetative center upwards but generally it can’t go from intellectual center downwards.

I was trying to grasp what has been said so far. Four centers, the hierarchy and their mutual influence. But what are these centers and what do they do?

“Vegetative center regulates the internal activities of our body such as digesting food, cleaning the blood, maintaining body temperature etc. Most of its activities are autonomous and we have no control over it. The only one point where we have little control is breathing.

“Motor center regulates the physical mobility.  All bodily movements including the posture.

“Emotional Center regulates feelings and emotions.

“Intellectual Center regulates the thought processes, relates data, and regulates learning.

Now there was some more clarity about the functioning of the four centers. But how do I use this knowledge in changing my mental states?

I started reflecting. If I am angry, it is the emotional center disturbed. At that time, it does not occur to me that I should not get angry. In that way my anger has affected my intellectual center. I realised how the influence goes from the lower emotional center to upper intellectual center. At that time if someone explains me logically about the demerits of getting angry, it would not make sense to me. And in any case if the influence generally does not go downwards, then whatever I think about controlling the anger, it would be futile and of no help.

Now I realise how all the wonderful talk about controlling emotions remain only as a good talk. Be positive, don’t get upset, don’t panic, control anger and all that sounds too simple, only as advise to be given to others that can’t be implemented. It appeals intellectual center and is futile, as generally the influence can’t go downward and affect emotional center.

The realisation was sinking in that my thinking about changing my disturbed mood to calm is not going to help me and is not going to work. Does it mean there is no way out?

“A person can modify his negative emotional states by adopting correct postures and changing the way he breathes.

Breathing is Vegetative center and posture is motor center and both will affect higher center. Thus, they will affect the emotions. In my example of being angry, if I take deep breathing, go for a small stroll, have a cup of tea, I notice that gradually my anger subsides.

I could change my mental states not by thinking about it, but by affecting my vegetative and motor center. And the easiest way is to change my breathing and body posture.  There is simple technique to change the breathing.

“Sit in a chair using correct posture. Close your eyes and relax your muscles as completely as

you can. Exhale completely, without forcing anything. Then, extend your stomach, stick it way

out, and begin to inhale air. Try to have the sensation that you are “filling your stomach” with air.

When your stomach is “full,” hold your breath a few moments.

“Next ‘pull in’ your stomach. This will give you the sensation of the air rising to your chest (this sensation can be reinforced by expanding your chest and pushing your shoulders back). Hold the air in your chest for a few moments.

“Finally, move the air to the upper part of your chest, towards your throat. Reinforce this final

upward movement by lowering your shoulders and extending your neck slightly.

Wow. It works. Changing the breathing and the posture to influence the mental state. So simple and so effective. Great learning on my journey to become better person.

Continue reading more about Journey to becoming better human being part- 17

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