A consistent spiritual practice is good for our mind, much as physical training makes the body healthier. Research that looked at the brain development of long term meditators has found certain parts of the brain are stronger, more developed, specifically the areas related to the regulation of attention and concentration.
For most people, when thoughts or emotions arise our awareness feeds these patterns with more thoughts and emotions, so that a sense of individuality and “self” develops and persists. One then feels very much separate from the world, and in a sense we are, when our awareness is caught by ideas spinning in our heads accompanied by powerful emotional states in our bodies.
But if you do some form of mindfulness practice consistently, like yoga, tai chi or meditation (or even mindful running, gardening, praying or swimming) over time you should find it easier to “let go” of thought patterns, by focusing your attention instead on your breathing, the field of awareness in your body and/or on the sights and sounds of the present moment, mindful awareness of the world around you.
When awareness is focused on the body’s energy field (Ch’i or qi 氣 in Chinese), on breathing, slow movements or outward on the here and now, we feel more calm and peaceful. We can then experience a sense of being anchored and connected to the local landscapes of our Universe, more aware of what is happening both within us and around us, how our lives are moving in dynamic interdependence with everyone and everything else.
The result is a what the Chinese call “wu wei” (無爲) or non-doing, where you are more able to flow in synch with the local situational patterns of the moment, flowing with life, rather then trying to control or manipulate people and situations to fit the imposed “will” of illusory (and transitory) ego patterns and desires.
Traditional Asian arts such as yoga, tai chi, aikido, meditation and tea ceremony have this kind of training as a key goal. Ideally, any physical activity or art form can become meditative in this way, a form of “mindfulness practice” or flow experience if we give our full attention to it.
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