"The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself."
When you buy new software in a box, it usually comes with a manual. Most of us probably don’t read much of it, but it is there if we need it. The manual, however, doesn’t tell us everything. Usually, there are undocumented features. These are tasks the software can do that you probably wouldn’t know about unless you did some serious experimenting or happened to have insider technical information. One might say this is esoteric software information.
As we grow up in a human body, certain information is provided to us in the normal socialization process. We learn to walk and talk. We learn to feed and clean ourselves. We learn about exercise and rest. We learn to play and work. We learn a tremendous amount of information about how to live in our culture. However, some things about being human are not covered in the normal acculturation curriculum. Information about modifying our states of consciousness and our physiology are largely undocumented.
If you want to get full value from your body/mind you may want to look into some of these features that will allow you to modify your consciousness and physiology.
Breathing: Your body has a system for dealing with danger that involves activating parts of your body necessary for fighting or running away and turning off processes, like digestion, that are less necessary in an emergency. It also has a system for turning off the emergency response. It is all supposed to happen automatically, but when we are under persistent stress, the deactivation may not happen. Breathing is the key to getting control of these processes. Slower and deeper breathing, for instance, counters anxiety and tension. Sighing also releases tension and can be calming.
Here is a little experiment: Notice how you are feeling. A little tense? You know how when people have just finished a difficult experience, they wipe their forehead, drop their hand like they are throwing off sweat, exhale and say “Wheeuw!”? Try that and see if you have any kind of physiological or emotional response. You might notice that it works in a small way to begin the relaxation response.
Want to learn more about the technology of breathing and consciousness? Look into Kundalini Yoga.
Posture: When you were a kid, somebody probably told you to stand up straight, but you didn’t know why, and you probably ignored him or her. Here is the deal. When you stand or sit up straight you are more able to elevate the state of your mind and emotions. Want to test this? Spend some time with your head down. Keep your face pointed at the floor whether you are standing, walking or sitting. How do you feel? Probably not so good. Your spine is bent, so energy doesn’t flow as freely. Your ribcage is compressed, so you can’t breathe as deeply, and somewhere in your brain there is a switching signal that is related to crying. When you get into “crying position” it tells your emotions to get sad. When you’ve had enough of this, raise your head, look the world in the eye and take a nice deep breath. See if you start to feel better right away.
Self-Stimulation: Have you noticed that when you are bored you become restless? You might find yourself tapping your fingers on a desk, shaking your foot, stroking your face, biting your nails, playing with your hair, biting a pencil, twiddling your thumbs, doodling or some other apparently purposeless behavior. It isn’t purposeless. Each of those actions works to keep you more alert than you would otherwise be. Those little repetitive movements apparently jack up your brainwave frequency enough that you don’t embarrass yourself by snoring in class or somewhere else where you are supposed to be awake.
If you notice that you are twiddling your thumbs or doing one of the other repetitive behaviors mentioned above, check your awareness level. Notice your posture. You might want to sit up straighter, breathe more consciously, and use the opportunity to practice your mindfulness. Or get up and dance.
Some Jews rock their head and torso forward and back while praying. Most likely, this self-stimulating practice developed because it raises the awareness level and helps the person at prayer stay focused. Give it a try and see what happens.
Smiling: Just as putting your body into a head down, bent over crying position may induce sadness, smiling can induce happiness. Somehow, our brains are wired so that when we are happy, we smile. The information flows both ways though, so when we smile, the emotional center in our brain assumes the occasion calls for it and releases chemicals that make us feel better. When you get up in the morning, look in the mirror (yes, this may take courage), and smile at yourself. Notice what this does for your feeling state. You might feel a little better. You will definitely look better.
Affirmative Thought: Just as you can induce your brain to tell your body to get happy by smiling, you can change the way you feel and how you behave by directing the content of your thoughts. We all talk to ourselves. Most of us do it silently, but we constantly interpret our own behavior and comment on our experience.
If your inner commentary is full of self-deprecation, hopelessness and worry, you will likely feel depressed and anxious. If you can change these thoughts to more positive, self affirming ones you will be likely to feel better.
Amazingly, you don’t even have to believe your affirmations. If you repeat them to yourself often enough your mind/body assumes the statement must be true and responds accordingly.
Try this: Repeat over and over as often as possible a phrase that describes what you would like to be. For instance, “I am worthy of a prosperous and joyous life.”
When creating an affirmation, start with an “I” statement. For instance, “I am…”
State in a positive form the condition you would like to experience.
Avoid negative words in an affirmation. The part of the brain you are trying to influence may not register words like “no” or “not.” “I don’t over eat” may filter through as “I over eat.” That could be bad. The area of the brain that governs your response to pleasure and motivation is down in the older part that evolved long before the brain’s language centers, so you need to keep it simple.
There are many more undocumented features of our body/mind. What have you noticed that alters your mood or state of mind?