Stop & Think (but not too much!)
Answer this intriguing question - why is it that during your sleep you experience no joint pain, back pain, headache or muscle tension, not even any sense of hunger or thirst? Sure you may wake up and feel these things but during your actual sleep cycle you experience none of these ordinary, daily problems! Perhaps we've all had those extremely 'real' dreams where we do appear to experience physical harm or trauma but as soon as we awaken even that pain disappears once we realize it was just a dream. In the same way, I believe it is possible (and I've had experiences to prove this to myself) to awaken from our sleep of attachment and ignorance that keeps us believing that we are our bodies. This firm belief that we carry all the time is what heightens our senses and increases pain perception. Each night you fall asleep is evidence to prove to you that your senses become absorbed, your mind becomes very subtle and the pain you experienced and grasped onto whilst awake completely disappears. So the challenge becomes how do you maintain this subtle state of mind, free from pain and sickness, when awake...
An Eastern Perspective on Sleep Cycles
Our mind is typically so busy that it's difficult to sit still unless we are being distracted by some entertainment. For example, I think we've all experienced many nights of attempting to get to sleep and our physical body is lay down in our dark, quiet bedroom, yet our mind is working overtime downloading events from the past and projecting to the future. Within Buddhism they define mind as a formless continuum, its nature is clarity and it functions to perceive and understand things. They clearly differentiate between the mind (non-physical) and the brain (physical). The brain is easy to understand as part of the human body. We can take images of the brain and even have it operated on. However, although the mind is associated with our physical body it has no tangible or physical properties. Through the power of our mind and imagination we can travel from Earth to the Moon and imagine what it would be like but we can't physically get there without travelling in some kind of spacecraft. Another example I often give is that if the mind and the brain were the same then why couldn't we have surgery to remove our anger, depression, anxiety and other negative states of mind that appear to have no function, other than to harm ourselves and others. After all, are we not all seeking to be happy all the time and to be completely free from all pain and sickness? I would confidently answer yes to this and according to Buddhist wisdom, it is possible. It all depends upon our effort to work toward this goal.
Depths of Mind
Let's go a little deeper into your mind for a moment. Have you ever noticed that when your partner or child is sleeping and you open their eye they don't suddenly become startled and see you? Again our Buddhist friends tell us that the gross mind and energy winds, upon which our five senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste) are mounted, have dissolved into our subtle mind and energy winds and thus they no longer function unless we are aroused from our sleep. Beyond the subtle mind we enter into our very subtle mind during our deepest sleep and it is during this phase that all our gross physical senses have ceased. Buddhist's believe that our cycles of sleep, dreaming and waking are very similar to death, intermediate state and rebirth. The simple difference between the two is that when we arise in the morning in our present body, our mind and body are still associated. At the time of death our very subtle mind separates from our present body and continues to our next life. Buddhism 101 for you there.
What does all this mean?
I challenge you to learn one of the greatest tools I added to my health program 13-years ago. Meditation. It is through correct meditation that you can train your mind to accomplish deeper levels of mind (from gross to subtle and eventually the very subtle mind). Imagine yourself arising every day with a deep sense of inner peace and contentment that regardless of what your daily life brings, your mind is tranquilly abiding in a state of pure happiness. Then all your muscle pain and other problems will truly end. To accomplish this we need a teacher. I've worked with many ordained monks and nuns and studied extensively to be able to say confidently that this method of meditation works 100% of the time. This scientific method of meditation I have studied for the past 13 years is available in your local area: Visit www.kadampa.org & type in your city to find a meditation centre in your area. My video below shares a simple meditation that I still use, called Black & White Breathing and anyone can learn with practice.
Yours In Muscle Health,
Jason Barlow, RMT.