Dr N Ganesh Rao, Chief Advisor, Academics & Training, Kaivalyadhama, tells us how awareness stops the mechanical process of degeneration of disturbances into physical ailments.
We have witnessed the inadequacies of modern medicine in ensuring ever-present physical health, and the vulnerability of the modern mind in coping with stress.
Scientific progress and technological advancement do not necessarily lead to happiness. Intellectual progress and material affluence do not necessarily make the human mind strong. In this scenario, the role to be played by spiritual wellness cannot be over-emphasized.
Decoding spiritual wellness
Spiritual wellness may be understood as a sense of wellness or general health arising out of being spiritual. If the mind is happy, the body is healthy, and accordingly, spirituality is a must for taking care of the mind. Spirituality is inversely proportional to the sense of ‘I’ or empirical self. The lesser the ‘I’ in me, the more spiritual I am.
Awareness – the secret of holistic health
The Indian term for ‘health’ is ‘swasthya’, which is comprised of two terms, ‘swa’ and ‘stha’, meaning ‘established in own self’. A man established in his own self is considered to be healthy. The ‘self’ referred to here is definitely not the empirical self comprising of the body-mind complex – because, when established purely in this ‘self’, the person is termed ‘selfish’, and it invariably leads to problems.
The ‘self’ in ‘swasthya’ is the spirit or consciousness, the spiritual self. If so, what does it mean to be established in this self and will it cater to health? To be established in the self may be taken as being established in ‘awareness’ i.e., ‘the witnessing principle’ or ‘sakshi bhav’. This is the ability to stand back and observe one’s mental and physical activities, at the time they are happening, as a pure spectator.
Yogic practices try to increase one’s awareness, thereby enabling one to identify with consciousness (spiritual) and not with the empirical self (material). A glimpse of this awareness happens during meditation when we reach the no-mind state (a state which transcends the mind).
Awareness is the cornerstone of yoga, of all denominations of spirituality, of an evolved existence and evolution in life. Concepts like ‘mindfulness’, ‘passive consciousness’, ‘meditative state’, ‘sakshi bhav’ or witnessing attitude’ come very close to the understanding of ‘awareness’.
Setting yourself free
Awareness is the solution to becoming permanently free from the sufferings of the body and the mind. The basic reason for our suffering in life is unawareness. For example, a person who gets angry, does ‘damage’, then repents and resolves not to get angry again. The basic question for such a person is, ‘When you were angry, where were you?’ You were not there! You were not aware of your anger.
When angry, if you are aware that you are angry, then you are no longer angry. When sad, if you are aware that you are sad, you are no longer sad. Awareness enables you to watch ‘objectively’ your body and mind function at the time they are functioning. They are then in your control and you are no longer dictated upon by the vagaries of the body and mind.
The antidote to stress
Stress, in a way, is a function of the speed of the mind. Restlessness and hyperactivity are major causes of stress – they prevent peace and calmness. Awareness increases when the movement or activity of the mind is slower.
Considering the previous statements together, we reach the interesting
conclusion that stress can be reduced or eliminated when we become more aware.
Awareness is the antidote to stress! So-called stress-related or psychosomatic ailments are arrested even before they start making inroads into us by just being ‘aware’ of the state of our mind. Awareness of a disturbed state of mind prevents explicit and implicit stress responses or reactions in the body, and thus stops the otherwise mechanical process of degeneration of that disturbance into a physical ailment.
Make a choice
In a world that increasingly weighs heavy on our shoulders and paints a grim picture of the future, it is up to us to make a choice. Get swept up in worry and other stressors; or take a moment to stop, slow down and pay attention to our spiritual wellness.