Citta Vritti – Mind Chatter – Meditation Guide Part 6

The Sanskrit term Citta Vritti (pronounced: CHITTA VRITTIE) can be translated to mean mind chatter, or modifications of the mind. Sanskrit is an ancient language from India.

Imagine for a moment that your mind is a vast ocean. On a calm day when the surface is flat you can see deeply into the ocean. But on a typical day with waves and weather and all manner of aquatic activity the surface of the water becomes turbulent and cloudy. Our thoughts disturb the surface of our mental ocean. Too much mind chatter keeps our mental energies on the surface and prevent us from seeing deeply and utilizing our inherent wisdom.

Turbulent waters lead to poor visibility.

This also represents the filters that our minds process information through. These filters prevent us from seeing the truth of a moment. We have learned to perceive the world around us through filters. These filters and both subtle and gross. They both aid and hinder us. It is the use of these filters that allows us to see one detail but completely miss another. Just like shifting the focus of your eyes allows you to see the mirror, or the reflections in the mirror. So too, shifting the attention of your mind, allows you to see the moment or your interpretation of the moment.

It is often through seeing only our interpretation of a moment, that the truth of the moment is lost.

One example of this is language. When we hear someone speaking we have trained our minds to recognize patterns in the inflection of sound and process that into words. These words are then translated into definitions. Our mind processes each word into analogous objects till a root definition is found that we relate to directly. The words form sentences as they are pieced together and the mind translates the sound waves into meanings.

The purpose of language is to teach people a common way of thinking. This has the positive impact of opening communication. Our automatic translation of sounds into meanings enables us to focus on the word and dismiss extraneous details. But the nuance of a moment can often be found in the discarded context.

Language is one of the more commonly studied and analyzed filters we have. But there are thousands. And they operate in a very similar fashion. Processing an experience and breaking it down into meanings that we can hold onto. In this same way we often discard the context and lose much of the moment.

A simple example of this can be seen in the experience of a rose. It is easy to see a rose, perhaps even appreciate it’s color and smell, but from the level of filters we have labeled it ‘rose’ and moved on from the actual experience of that rose. Rose is a word we know, therefore we have understood the rose and experienced it. So we move on. When in truth this rose is a unique entity. There are no two roses in the world alike. And this rose will soon pass from it’s moment of beauty, and fade and die. The experience of this individual rose can be lost in the process of filtering and labeling.

Many of our filters formed in the first few years of our life. We have automatic response mechanisms built into us that predate our earliest memories of childhood. Response patterns we established before we even learned to hold our heads up.

We don’t consciously remember the cause, or the need for these filters, but they are still there, working for us, and against us, through every moment of our lives. These filters provide context and insight informing our interpretation of each moment. They also cloud the moment overshadowing what is really happening with your ‘perception‘ of what is happening, interpreted relative to occurrences from years past.

One of the goals of meditation is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. Breathing exercises can be a simple and quick meditation that can help quiet your citta vritti and empower you.

Breathing Exercise

Shift your awareness to your breathing.
It can help to focus on a single point in your inhale and exhale.

Either visualize the air as it passes in and out through your nostrils.
Or monitor the expansion and contraction of the lungs.

Simply Observe your breath

Notice the air as it passes through your nostrils, into your body
Notice the air as it leaves through your nostrils, out of your body

Now take a deep inhale through your nostrils

Slowly inhale to the count of 10 (adjust the time as needed to account for your physical abilities)
Pause at the top of the breath and hold to the count of 3

Slowly and fully exhale through your mouth

Again exhaling to the full count of 10
Pause at the bottom of the exhale for a count of 3

Repeat about 6 times.
Then return to observing your breath

 

Namaste – Kevin Goodman

 

A Day Without Technology

a-day-without-technology-bw-trim

On Friday night I decided to make good on an idea that had been circling around in my mind for a few months. Turn off everything and leave it off till sunset the next day.

I grew up with the practice of Sabbath, so this wasn’t completely foreign to me. But I hadn’t practiced in quite a while.

The evolution of my tech addiction started simply enough. First there were desktop computers of course, I loved them and wanted to take them everywhere with me. But they were stuck to my desk and plugged into the wall.

Then came the laptop. An improvement to be sure, but still quite limited. Short battery life. Limited power. And heavy, oh so very heavy. My first laptop was for work and they called it a broad-axe. It was about the size of a giant axe blade of war, and about twice as heavy. At least it didn’t have a giant handle sticking out of the side.

Next came the cell phone. They’d been around for years by the time I got my first. My first cell phone was practical. It made phone calls. It had a rudimentary web browser that was capable of displaying text and was a complete waste of time to use. It was a phone and mobile message taker.

Phones began to evolved.

Laptops got faster and lighter.

Soon phones were full scale web browsers and you could get all your email on them. You never had to be out of touch… From anyone. Always on.

Now our phones are full blown portable person computers, game systems, social communication platforms and … oh yeah, I guess they still make phone calls.

And we have come to feel they are an extension of us. They are part of our lives and we are accessible through every moment of our lives.

I’m still curious what the impact will be on the current generation. They won’t know a time when they aren’t always available, always connected, always on.

I know the impact on me has been powerful and subtle. I don’t even know the full impact. Technology is a fundamental part of my world.

So how would I react to turning everything off?

What would happen if I just went dark for a day?

As challenging as the idea of turning them all off for a day was, I thought it would be good for me.

So Friday night I turned off my iphone, I turned off my ipad, I powered down my laptop, I hid my TV remotes. I took a deep breath, and I went to bed.

The next morning, I told my wife about my plan. She was very hesitant at first, she liked the idea, but the repercussions of being out of contact with her online mother’s community was daunting. I highlighted that this was something I was doing and that she didn’t need to do it. She had a few concerns about her own participation in the experience. After mentally coming to grips with the idea, she decided to join me in my experiment.

As I showered that morning my brain kept popping up things I needed to check on the internet. Things that immediately needed my attention. Then I remembered I wasn’t doing that today.

At one point I realized that in that last 5 minutes there were no less than 4 times I could easily looking back and see I’d been thinking about “checking on” something. So the idea occurred to me that I should keep a tally of how many times I actually thought about my phone. I realized that I could download an app to help me keep track… Then I laughed quietly at my brain and tried to move on.

I was amazed at how challenging this was. I wasn’t used to observing how many impulses I have to check my phone over the course of just a few minutes. All of this turmoil from a simple act made me feel that I should write notes about my experience while it was occurring.

I then lamented that I couldn’t write notes because I didn’t have my computer turned on and I couldn’t use my phone. I thought about turning on the computer, “just for a minute” to write notes, but knew that would break the spirit of my experiment.

During this inner dialog I remembered something, something ancient from my childhood, it was also called “writing” and it involved a pencil and paper. Hooray, problem solved!

As the afternoon wore on, I found the need to check my phone lessen. I did have an undertone of unease to my mental state. I realized that this was coming from a feeling that “Someone, somewhere, must need me.” If only I turned on my phone I would find out.

I kept looking forward to sundown like a man holding his breath under water waiting to surface.

Early afternoon involved a nice nap sitting in my reading chair. Also I pulled out a physical book and did some reading into it’s pages. Two activities that would probably have been interrupted or not have occurred at all had I been “plugged in”.

When sundown did finally come, I enjoyed checking my email and seeing if I’d missed anything that I needed to know. But I was able to approach the experience in a calm fashion as opposed to feeling like a man gasping for air.

Interesting, the internet did not miss me. It didn’t even care that I was gone for 24 hours. In fact all those people that I thought were trying to contact me didn’t even notice I was gone. The only lingering side effects left over from the experience is this story and the calm that it created within me.

No damage done by my day without tech.

Overall I would highly recommend this experiment to everyone.

I was very disturbed by how many tell tale signs of addiction showed up over the course of the day. A computer seems like such simple tool, but it is tapped into more neural pathways than we care to admit.

Namaste,

Kevin

 

The Power Of Breath – Guide Part 3

The power of breath

Breathing is often taken for granted in our culture. The breath is a gift that is so often forgotten, because it is so fundamental to our being. The bodies use of the breath to revitalize itself and then expel toxins is critical to life as we know it.

In this day of smog filled air and high pollen counts it’s even more amazing that we simply keep breathing. Our bodies operate automatically on a subconscious level and it will not allow us to forget to breath.

This autopilot mode is an important piece to understanding the breath. When we become stressed and overwhelmed our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, our pulse rate increases, and our whole physiology changes to accommodate the signals coming from the brain. The mind is telling the body that we are in crisis and we must be vigilant and ready to respond to the attack that may come at any moment. But the attack never comes… Instead we sit in that state of high alertness and our body suffers from the minimized breathing activities as we continue to be ‘ready’.

The good news is that our nervous system is a two way street. Just as the mind can tell the body how to respond, the body can inform the mind. So shifting into a state of mindfulness and adjusting your rate of breathing and the fullness of your breath can in fact shift your mental state. Slowing your breath and deepening your inhale and exhale will cause your heart rate to stabilize and slow down and can reduce feelings of anxiety and agitation. As with all states of mind, the first and most crucial step is becoming aware.

So this leads to the first meditation process, simple breath awareness. This can be a very short process with the goal of observation or it can be part of a longer meditation. Find a comfortable position in which you can meditate for a short period, as stated you can do this for a minute or, as you become more advanced, much longer:

  • Shift your awareness to your breathing.
  • It can help to focus on a single point in your inhale and exhale.
    • Either visualize the air as it passes in and out through your nostrils.
    • Or monitor the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
  • And simply observe
    • Notice the air as it passes through your nostrils, into your body
    • Notice the air as it leaves through your nostrils, out of your body

That’s the whole technique. Simple Breath awareness. You are performing two activities here:

  1. You are increasing awareness of your breath and thus awareness of your mental state
  2. You are giving your mind something to focus on other that it’s endless chatter Chitta Vritti (Sanskrit for fluctuations of the mind, or mind chatter)

This simple process of becoming the observer and shifting the focal point of your mind can create a change in your breath and mental state that is beneficial to you.

This technique can then be augmented with breath control. In breath control exercises you are actually informing your physiology and your mind that we are no longer in crisis. By controlling the breath and gently bringing yourself into a calm state through breathing the body is informing the mind that everything is okay.

This can be accomplished through alternate nostril breathing, as highlighted in part 1 of the meditation guide.

Another technique is simple deep breathing.

  • Shift your awareness to your breathing.
  • It can help to focus on a single point in your inhale and exhale.
  • Begin by fully exhaling and pressing the air out of your lungs.
  • Now begin slowly breathing in through your nostrils to the count of 5
  • Fully inhale and then pause for a count of 2
  • Next begin to slowly exhale through your nostrils to the count of 5
  • Now pause at the bottom of the exhale for a count of 2
  • Repeat for 3 or 4 full rounds
  • Then release and allow your body to resume breathing normally
  • Become the observer and watch your breath as it passed in and out of your nostrils

As you can imagine this technique can be easily customized to suit your personal meditation needs.

I look forward to receiving feedback on your personal experience with these techniques.

Namaste,

Kevin