Getting physical is a great way to get out of the mind.
If you’re like me, your interest in meditation and The Work and self-discovery is motivated in part by a desire to slow down the mind and to get more in touch with who you are inside. Luckily for us, there are lots of ways to do this.
Why does the mind get agitated? It gets stirred up by desires that it cannot fulfill. Well, actually that’s not completely true. It gets agitated when it is attached to fulfilling a desire (and can’t, or is not sure it can). And it gets agitated when it has what it wants but fears it may lose it.
In other words, attachment to getting what I want is what speeds up the mind. It starts brainstorming to try to figure out how to get what it wants or how to not lose what it has. And when it’s not possible to control the outcome, it becomes anxious and stressed.
This can lead to a vicious cycle where trying to figure out how to solve the problem leads to frustration in not being able to figure it out. And frustration leads to more thinking about how to solve it. It’s a mental trap that can be hard to come out of.
One of my favourite ways, of course, is The Work of Byron Katie. Take any thought I’m attached to, question it, and my attachment often loosens. I start to see that I don’t have to figure it out. I can let it go and leave space for things to work themselves out.
This kind of freedom is what attracts me to The Work and is why I do The Work every day. It feels like coming home. There is less I have to work out, and my mind is freer to rest and focus on what is actually doable.
But let’s look at another way out of the trap of agitation and anxiety. Basically, anything that can break the vicious cycle will help. What are some of those ways? Here’s a quick list off the top of my head:
Entertainment of any kind
Creativity and Art
Like any of the items on the list above, exercise can break the cycle of thinking and trying to figure out how to solve a problem. It requires that your attention be brought to something physical: moving the body, watching a ball, interacting with teammates, or feeling a stretch.
This shift of awareness from the mental (where the mind is stuck trying to figure out a difficult or impossible problem) to the physical pulls the mind out of its trap. This may be temporary, but it doesn’t matter. it breaks the cycle, allowing the mind to rest, and loosening the attachment to solving the problem for a while.
In addition, many physical exercises bring balance to the physical system, making you feel better so that solving that mental problem becomes less of an issue. When I’m feeling good, I’m less attached to getting other things that I want.
My chiropractor gave me some stretches to do twice a day for about 20 min and I’ve been doing them regularly for a couple of months now. The difference is like night and day. I start my day with the stretches, nice slow stretches, and I do them again just before I go to bed.
This simple way of getting out of my mind just before bed is allowing me to fall asleep right away every night. All the problem-solving and agitation is loosened by doing these stretches. I love yoga for the same reason and, in fact, many of these stretches are yoga postures.
It’s like a buffer, slowing me down, balancing my body, and allowing me to rest.
I love stretches, but I also love The Work. What I love about The Work is that it addresses the root of why I get attached to an idea and I often find that I can let it go completely. This shifts things in a major way because it often means that I become immune to that kind of stress in the future.
Stretches, on the other hand, may not address that kind of depth, but they loosen the physical results of mental agitation, and they address stresses that come from purely physical causes as well (bad posture, overworking muscles, etc.). It feels like a one-two punch when I use The Work and stretching together in my life.
In addition to The Work, what other things do you use to get out of your mind and back into your direct experience?
If you want to learn or practice The Work more regularly, join me for The Work 101, my in-depth online course for going deeply into self-inquiry.
Have a great week,
“The mind surrenders to itself. When it isn’t at war with itself, it experiences a world that is completely kind, the benevolent mind projecting a benevolent world.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy
Further reading: The Fine Line Between Physical Stress and Mental Stress