Quiet Mind, Quiet Body
Dec 31, 2016 04:33PM
By Seijaku Roshi
Like most ideas surrounding the human experience in our society today, there continues to be an unbalanced approach when it comes to health and well-being. There remains too much emphasis on diet and exercise alone as the solution to achieve both. Only recently has medical science begun to explore what Buddhists hold to be the other essential ingredient, the one the mind plays for achieving a healthy and vibrant body. It has only been in the last two decades that medical science has seriously explored ancient practices in mindfulness and various forms of meditation as part of the prescription for achieving optimum health and well-being.
Thomas Merton once wrote, “We cannot be happy if we expect to live all the time at the highest peak of intensity. Happiness (which is essential for good health) is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” Apart from a genuine sense of happiness or as we Buddhists prefer, a sense of “contentment” with ourselves and the world, good health is not achievable. Merton explained that we cannot expect to ever be content while living at the level of intensity our modern lifestyles with their cultural and social goals and objectives demand of us. We cannot “have our cake and eat it too”. In the end, health and well-being is a function of a “quiet mind which leads to a quiet body”. When the body is in a state of serenity—whether in meditation practice, recovery, or simply at rest—it is at its optimum position for healing and renewal, resulting in good health and longevity.
While a healthy diet for the body remains essential, it is equally true for the mind. Exposing ourselves all day to conversations characterized by criticism and judgment, craving and desiring, places the greatest stress on the mind/body reality of our existence. The mind is like any computer; “junk in, junk out” applies here.
The Buddha taught, “We become what we think.” We also become whatever we invest our hearts and energies in: We are our priorities. If the mind is in a constant state of pursuit and never content or satisfied, the brain is constantly flooding the body with hormones and other chemicals necessary for survival. No one can long remain healthy no matter diet and exercise while in an endless “fight or flight” mode.
Begin your day with “just one breath,” bring your attention to your body and know the breath you breath in and breath out; throughout your day, regularly return to “just this,” just this breath. Create opportunities to deliberately and consciously focus on your breath as you imagine yourself in a state of complete contentment. Stop focusing on “what’s not so,” and pay attention to “what’s so” in this moment, without bringing criticism or judgment of any kind to the moment. Minimize exposure to radio and TV which does not elevate the spirit. Stop judging, qualifying or criticizing your life. Simply take care of business. The future will take care of itself. Start there.
I love you.
Seijaku Roshi is the founder and spiritual director of The Zen Society, Pine Wind Zen Community, at 863 McKendimen Rd., in Shamong, NJ. He is a Zen-Buddhist Monk, parent, author, life coach and Abbot. Learn more at PineWind.org.