emancipate yourself from mental slavery

The last three limbs of yoga — dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (enlightenment) — are collectively referred to as sanyam, which means “control.”

I am writing this post from my parents’ guest room after a deep and difficult meditation. Before this meditation, I was very angry. It had been maybe an hour since the incident, but I was so angry that I could still feel the anger in my forehead. Maybe you know this anger, too. It is the kind that presents right between the eyes and tenses all along the line of the brow bone. I am ashamed to even admit my tendency toward anger. I am especially shy to admit that I often feel that anger strongest in my mind’s eye, where the anja chakra is located. But, I believe confession is a powerful form of liberation.

I have cultivated patience and long-suffering from a difficult home life growing up. But, my time away from home being an “adult” has also produced in me a pride and ego that are often in conflict with those same fruits of the spirit. Now, let me say that pride is a necessary product of having strong self-worth. Ego, however, is not. What is the difference? When I am proud of my accomplishments, it is because I know that I worked hard honestly and faithfully toward my goal to achieve it. This week, I got a new job working at the health food cafe and I worked hard all week to master the position since it is what I usually do. By the weekend, I managed to make it through my shift without a single mistake and I got to serve one of my favorite football players. For this, I am proud. It has been my goal to give this new thing a try and to learn it well and I am doing it! With cool bonuses!

Ego is different. My father and I got into a battle of egos. His ego is very big. And mine is too. But, before I approached the topic, I asked earnestly in prayer to my God to give me strength to let down my ego such that I could speak with my father about what I wanted. I was hoping he would understand. But, that was not the case. He was not wrong, but ego prevented him from trying to understand me. And, ego prevented me from letting it go. Growing up with my father, I would often let him led me into an egoic battle and I would, of course, lose. After all, how much ego can a child truly cultivate when they are still discovering themselves? But today, I have 27 years of age and 10 years of “adulthood,” so I got a big ego. Such a huge ego. (I love my big ego?)

I stood defiantly waiting for my father to change his mind. I was silent, but I used my body as a tool of resistance. Finally, he dismissed me and the whole subject angrily. It was in this moment that my prayers were answered. I understood my father and though I realllyyy disagreed, it was up to me to leave the situation reparable. I was responsible for my own response under tension. When I realized this power, a calm washed over me and a peace entered my heart. I was angry, but not so angry that I couldn’t let it go peacefully and politely to be approached at a more convenient time. By God’s grace, I told him that I understood and I thanked him for letting me bring it up.

Why am I saying this?  Because afterward, I meditated and meditated hard. In my meditation, a thought arose of my enslaved great-great grandparents. Capitivity is a special trial for God’s people. It is in capitivity that we are forced to give up the rights to our bodies and our sense of free-will. We cannot go and come as we please. We do not have the choice to live our lives as we want. We are not free. In my mediation, I sat for 30 minutes being as still as I could, not moving my any part of body. Focusing my dristi, I used a soft, steady gaze to turn inward to my mind’s eye. Then tension I found there was overwhelming. (Honestly, I should probably sit again for another 10 mins after this!) But, as I concentrated on the rising and falling of my breath (my life force), I allowed my thoughts to arise. When I acknowleged them and gave them permission to release, I felt more and more free. I repeated my mantra when very difficult tensions arose, such as why my ex offered me to date his brother after hearing of my recent breakup with my former partner. (ego) I repeated my mantra when the thought arised that my new position was beneath me and not worth all my hard work in school. (ego) I allowed the thoughts that I would never get my business off the ground since I can’t speak up for myself dissolve away with each exhale. (ego)

Twenty-five mintues leter, I came out of my mediation to see all the things that had been trapping me in just my head alone. The external tension of my dad’s anger seemed much looser without the anger I was holding in myself. The potiental for change in my external world was infinite again. Liberation of the mind will liberate the body. I think my great grandmother’s grandmother knew this when she sang out her freedom on the plantation. This is how we endured. We could not be enslaved in our minds. We would not allow it. We could not afford it. Without psychological slavery, physical slavery had a much weaker hold. Keeping our minds free, we were free to create America’s only folk music, fashion orginal artforms that were replicated and remixed for generations and survive our daily lives despite the horrific experiences befalling us and those around us.

The mind is powerful and the dristi seductive. Sometimes freedom of choice gives us permission to allow ourselves to be blown about in any direction the eye fancies and our minds follow. We may go for weeks until we find ourselves tired because we had not nourished the spirit of our minds with purposeful thinking and conscious releasing. In capitivity, we do not have that luxury, and we also do not have the that trap. Likewise, many of the early followers of Jesus were emprisioned and beaten for speaking out against the existing belief system. When I look at the letter to the Galatians, chapter 5 verse 1 and think of my literate ancestors reading this same scripture: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” (the Message) Capitivity is a special trial for God’s people. So, take strength because the body is one thing. But, the spirit of the mind is another.

Here is a practice to ease tension in the mind from Shambahala meditation teacher and Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron: https://youtu.be/NQGvB4Obs1s This practice from her series, How to Meditatate is for those of us working through any sort of mental tension right now. May it serve you well as you move along the path to liberation. Liberate the mind and the body will follow.

Wishing internal peace and love to you,