Most of us are incessantly bombarded with random thoughts. We end up connecting these random thoughts to create a story. We create an identity for ourselves based on these stories. We don’t even realize that we derive our identity from these stories. The stories could be coming from feelings of dejection, rejection, defeat, fear or those of elation, happiness, victory and courage. Still they are thoughts. Some we label as good and others as bad. We do not realize that our true identity is not, “I am happy, I am sad, I am courageous, I am lonely.” We identify ourselves with our work title. We constantly tell ourselves, “I am Director, I am VP, I am Software Engineer.” We tell ourselves, “Without me the work would stop.” By being burdened like this, we build up stress. This is another reason which gives rise to random thoughts and we build stories. Then, to escape from these stories and this constant mental chatter, to escape from ourselves, we get immersed in work or some external activity which would take us away from ourselves. We rarely pay attention to our inner world, because we feel scared to do so. We end up in a catch-22 situation. We blame our jobs and the stress, supposedly caused by it. We probably blame our colleagues or our managers for causing stress. We want to change our jobs. We find a new one. After sometime, well guess what, we are back to square one. But, we do not realize that we created all this. It is we who have created this stress for ourselves. By creating our identity from the work we do, from the stories we have created from our thoughts and feelings, we created this suffering. But, our true identity (if we can call it that) is, “That I am” sO ham (see sanskrit transliteration scheme). “That” is the very essence we are made of. “That” cannot be given any name or any form. “That” is what you are. “That” is what I am. “That” is what the entire creation is.
This state of realization is the state of immense “peace and joy.” Use of these words really does not do justice to that state. You do the work, but not attached to it. You do not derive your identity from it. You are not the Director. Being a Director is a role you play. You are not a scientist. Being a scientist is a role you play. You are not the VP. Being a VP is a role you play. When you get home you are not husband/wife/father/mother. It is a role you play. However, this detachment is not indifference. In fact, it is to the contrary. Whatever you do, either some work or helping your kid with homework, you do it with full attention. But, you are not worried whether the end result will be as you expected it to be. You love unconditionally without expecting to be loved back. Your detachment is with your thoughts, not with the world, for your thoughts create your reality. So, in this state of full attention, you actually produce results that are of high quality, than you could achieve under stress. Thus, when you know yourself as the essence (“That”) that animates the body and thought processes, you will see yourself in all creation. Then, where is the room for stress?
How do you come to this state of realization of “sO ham?” You could use the technique of yOga nidra or yOgicRest and/or breathing and visualization techniques for self-healing that I talked about earlier in this blog. But, you may not have half an hour of time to spare in your busy schedule. I will discuss a few techniques you could use to quiet your mind and reduce the stress level; to detach from the thoughts that are causing you stress at that very moment. However, if you have time, then practicing techniques discussed in the above mentioned articles, in addition to the those discussed here, would be very helpful.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
- Accepting All Thoughts—First thing in quieting your thought processes, is to accept all thoughts in their entirety and accepting them to be just that. Don’t label them as being good/bad, negative/positive, etc. They are just thoughts, energy. I know it is difficult, but once you stop labeling them, you will get some relief.
- Non-Judging—One thing I found to be the “most difficult” thing to do was to replace the so called “negative” thoughts with so called “positive” ones. It does not quiet the mind, but only replaces one form of thought with another. And, it actually becomes very painful. It did not help me. Remember this technique still entails labeling the thoughts. When you do not judge your thoughts, you will stop judging yourself. When you stop judging yourself, you are less likely to judge others.
- Non-Control—Do not try to control thoughts you have. There is a story that goes like this. There was a sign in front of a meditation room in a temple, “Do not think of Pink Elephants while meditating.” This was kind of a lesson, for the beginners, in the process of “letting go.” The beginning meditators would read this sign and say to themselves, “I should not think of Pink Elephants.” They sit for meditation. They keep getting thoughts of Pink Elephants. The more they try to push them away, the stronger they become, eventually they start seeing Pink elephants dancing around their heads.
So, do not push them away or judge them. Instead do one or both of the following techniques. These techniques can be performed anytime that you can devote a couple of minutes without distractions.
Techniques for Detachment from Thought and Reducing Stress
I practice the techniques discussed below and they work for me. I am discussing them here in hopes that they may help you as well. Consistent practice will help you calm your nerves, reduce stress and access inner peace and joy. When this happens consistently, you will rewire your brain circuits to experience more and more of inner peace and joy.
- prANAyAma—A breathing (and meditation) technique
- Close your eyes.
- Watch your breath as it goes in and out, in its own natural rhythm. Do not force it. Just observe the way the breath moves through you. Be a watcher/witness of the breath.
- If you like you can add the following mental chant, “sO ham” (O as in the English word “So,” ham as in “hummm”).
- You mentally say, “sO” as the breath goes in on its own accord and mentally say, “hummm” as the breath goes out on its own accord. “sO ham” means “That I am.”
- This is also Pranayama (Breathing, Breath, prAna or Life force control) technique. If you get distracted by thoughts, don’t worry. Just bring your attention back to breath.
- You can do this for 1–5 mins or more. You can do this as many times as you like during the day.
As you become better at this technique, you can do this by keeping partial attention on your breath during your daily activities, that “do not” require your 100% attention. CAUTION: Do this only when you are sure that you will not cause any harm to yourself.
- dhyAna or Meditation—After the above technique, you can add 1 to 5 mins of this meditation technique:
- Close your eyes.
- Start watching your thoughts.
- Let go of the “sO ham” chant and stop focusing on your breath
- Now, just watch the thoughts as they come and go, like luggage on a conveyor belt. However, none of that luggage is yours. You are just watching the thoughts as they go by. You are not even focusing on your breath.
- You are not focusing on any of those thoughts.
- This is a technique called, “nEti, nEti,” (I am not that, I am not that). In the beginning, as thoughts come, you could say, “I am not this thought, just let go.” Just relax into it.
This is a very difficult technique to do, though it sounds easy. You can start with one or two minutes and then build up.
These techniques will help you become detached to the random thoughts you get and use only the thoughts you want to use. You can do them whenever you like. You don’t have to do both, one or the other is fine. Personally, I prefer the breathing technique to do more often since it is easier than the meditation technique and will result in the same. Even one minute of it will help you.
Apart from the above techniques the following techniques will also help reduce stress and move you toward inner peace. Practicing these techniques will help you access the joy and happiness within you. By consistently experiencing the inner peace and joy, you will break the old brain circuits that repeatedly caused stress and rewire them to experience inner peace and joy.
- Laughter—Set aside sometime for laughing. Laugh from Belly, chest, throat and head in succession. Laugh in such a way that the muscles and bones in the region you are producing the laughter from just shake up. By shaking the muscles and bones this way you are releasing any stress and tension accumulated as tightness or pain.
- Read and Tell Jokes—Reading and telling jokes helps you access laughter and joy within you. Make sure that the jokes do not contain thoughts of prejudice or of closed mindedness, and are healthy and provide happiness and joy to you and everyone who is listening to you.
- Watch Comedy shows—Again, watching healthy comedy shows helps you feel lighter.
- Listen to Peaceful Music—I find any form of classical music to be very soothing. You can listen to nature sounds as well. Many CDs and audio cassettes are now available with such music. Make sure that music you listen to helps you calm down and achieve a meditative state. The music you listen to should not agitate you. Of course, there is time and place for such music as well.
- Learn to Sing—If you like singing, most of us do so at least in the bathroom, then why not take up voice lessons. They will put you in touch with your body and help you integrate body, mind and spirit.
- Learn to play a musical instrument—Produces same results as singing.
- Record your own voice and listen to it for fun—You can get a Karaoke machine and have singing night with your family and friends who might enjoy such activities.
- Become a child—If you notice children, they are always curious to know and do new things and are fascinated by everything they see. Develop a curiosity for new things.
- Read Widely—Read on various subjects. Do not restrict yourself to one subject. Reading about various subjects, expands your horizons and thought processes by activating more of your frontal lobes of the brain.
- Be with Nature—Take long walks in Nature. Do not think during that time. Just have focus on your breath, look around and absorb the view around you. An earthworm, a snail, a bird, an animal or a tree can teach you to be calm, mindful and be present, if you only pay attention to them. Plus, walking will also make you physically fit.
- Exercise—Take up exercising. It has proven to help reduce stress and help you calm down. You can pick up body-mind integrators such as yOga, if you are so inclined. Any form of exercise has its benefits. So, you have many choices.
I hope that these techniques will help you move away from trying to find happiness and joy in the outward material things, and move you inward to access peace and joy that is always within you and essentially you.