There are many reasons that we all feel wobbly right now: global pandemic, daily headlines about the massive case numbers and death toll, not to mention the Orange President’s last days and expectations of a temper tantrum, and of course the UK’s mini Trump constantly out of his depth and floundering around.
I’m not a fan, as you can probably tell and that attitude is hardening as the Brexit fall out starts to impact me personally. I can’t even take Amelia home to Northern Ireland now without an agricultural health certifcate, a rabies vaccine and a tapeworm treatment. Just another rip-off delivered courtesy of the ‘take back control’ idiots.
If I could round up every politician, advisor and journalist and all their enablers that knowingly lied to convert the UK to an unregulated tax haven to the detriment of ordinary people, I would put them all on a remote barren island and cheerfully wave bye bye.
But I digress…
Or maybe not because I’ve just shown you one of the obstacles you will face on your way to building a foundation of good mental health. The constant barrage of fear loaded, stress brining WTF news!
There’s a line in an ancient poem, ‘The Yoga Sutras’ written around 300AD and it describes the purpose of yoga, the methods of yoga and the essential philosophy of yoga.
In Chapter 1, there is a line about the obstacles one will encounter on the way to meditation.
“The obstacles are distractions caused by disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, craving, delusion, non-attainment of desired objective and unsteadiness.”
This is essentially the same as what gets in our way to building a good foundation of mental health hygiene and practices. That advice, which is a couple of thousand years old is still true. I’ll take each obstacle as mentioned and describe its relevance to you today.
Disease – Of course, there’s Covid 19, but the novel Coronavirus is only just over a year old and the mental health crisis has been ongoing for decades. So let’s not just pin this one on the current focus of global attention. In the context of getting in your way to achieving good mental health, your lack of physical good health matters. How do you look after your physical health? What are you eating? Are you hydrated? Do you exercise? Are you stretching your body?
Your physical health affects your mental health. The two are intertwined. Improving one helps the other. Even if you have a diagnosis that requires medical intervention, there’s always something we ourselves can do to improve our health. We have handed over responsibility for our good health to the medical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry and our government.
The thing is industry is all about making money. They are all about profit. The food industry makes us sick, the medical and pharmaceutical industries manage our symptoms and the government regulates them to hopefully ensure they do not take too much advantage of our ignorance.
Doesn’t seem to be working does it?
What does good health need? Food that nourishes us, natural, honest food. Not food like substances that are laced with addictives, sugar, preservatives and God knows what else. Water, not the poison disguised as ‘energy’ drinks and other fizzy stuff full of sugar and additives.
Eating crap makes us feel like crap and creates a culture in our body within which disease thrives. Eat good food and minimise your intake of the stuff that damages your body and mind.
Dullness – I am not talking about a criticism of anyone’s personality. No-one likes to be thought of as dull! And you’re not. Find the right people and the most boring person is fascinating. It’s all a question of being judged by those who are not like you. Who cares? They are not your people. Let them go, leave them behind and go find the right tribe for you.
But dullness can also mean the grinding sameness of everyday life and the inertia that takes over us which stops us from ever finding the charge we need to make even small changes. Human beings are creatures of routine but that routine can become soul destroying when we have filtered out the things that bring us joy.
Life demands engagement. You get back what you give. And if you’re just going through the motions and not engaging, not showing up, not taking any kind of risk to allow yourself to live, to express your full self then you’re strangling the life out of your life.
Doubt – Ah, the biblical story of Doubting Thomas illustrates this perfectly. You won’t believe the practices you take to help you will help you until they’ve helped you! Just as Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus has resurrected and visited the disciples because he had missed the dinner date. The thing is you have to put your skepticism to one side and trust that meditation/tapping/hypnosis/journaling – whatever practice you chose to start with will help, you have to trust it will help before it can help.
Read the research, understand that some mental health hygiene practices have existed and their impact given in testimonies for over five thousand years. Of course you won’t believe until it works on you and you’re inclined to believe it won’t but what if it does?
Can you just allow yourself to have that little seed of faith? What if it does what you need it to do? What if it just works?
Carelessness – This creates a few different obstacles to a foundation of good mental health. First is a general carelessness in looking after yourself. Rather than prioritising your self care, you allow yourself to do whatever’s easiest. A snack bar rather than making a healthy meal. Sitting on the sofa all day and forgoing your body’s need for movement. Watching rubbish tv and avoiding intellectual challenge and stimulation. As we keep being careless our general health, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual decline further and further usually until we experience a crisis that wakes us up to the need to actually give a GodDamn.
There is also the carelessness in not having a daily routine that is specifically designed to build good mental health. It can be easy to ignore, to just not make the effort, we’ll get around to it later and then we run out of time and promise to do better the next day. This carelessness is easily avoided, we give ourselves no choice in the matter.
For me, every morning before I get out of bed I think about one thing I want to have happen that day which elevates my mood and sends sensations of joy and excitement through my body. Throughout the day, I remind myself of this intention and build on that excitement. My morning walk and my journaling are sacrosanct.
Nothing stops me doing that now, but when I was beginning the journaling practice I would be careless with it. Until I realised not doing it made it feel off, made the day feel off and just wasn’t worth it. I feel better when I do it, its worth the effort and now I don’t have to discipline myself to do it. Its become a routine, buts its an energetically, creatively charged routine – not a dull inducing, energy sucking one.
Laziness – what I want to say about laziness is encapsulated in the dullness and carelessness pieces of this post. Laziness is the enabler of carelessness and dullness. Its a horrible lethargy of mind and body that takes us over and leaves us feeling, well… horrible. We can’t, won’t move. We can’t and won’t think differently. Its all just too much effort.
You know what’s too much effort? Feeling like that. And its just not worth it. so banish laziness by making a choice and leaving yourself with no other alternative. I will get up and do my daily mental health practice because that’s the kind of person I am. There’s simply no other choice available for me. Make it so for yourself.
Craving – are you starting to see how all these states reinforce each other? Craving enables dullness, disease, carelessness and laziness. And even doubt: you imagine you could never give up whatever it is you crave even to establish a solid foundation of good mental health. The thing you crave is worth the cost to your life and wellbeing.
But only in the moment of craving.
Once you’ve given in and consumed it, you feel hopeless, helpless, powerless and sick of yourself. Why the fuck would anybody want to feel like that? Cravings are a sensation that rises in the body to distract us from worthwhile efforts to change. It’s just another way for your subconscious to do whatever it needs to do to keep you the same.
There are ways to overcome cravings, I write about it often. But the most important thing to remember is that they are only temporary and will pass. Sit it out, go do something else, distract yourself from your distraction technique.
Delusion – Delusions are defined as fixed, false beliefs that conflict with reality. Even in the face of contrary evidence, a person in a delusional state can’t let go of their convictions and delusions are often reinforced by the misinterpretation of events.
If you believe there is no need to look after yourself, to take care of your mental health, then no-one will persuade you otherwise. If you believe that meditation, journaling, tapping, whatever method you come across is a load of hooey, nothing will convince you of its usefulness to you.
Non-attainment of desired objective – Of course this shows up. Because we all want what we want now! We’ve put in the effort, we’re meditating or doing yoga or hugging trees and forest bathing or whatever it is you felt was the right approach to building your strong foundation of good mental health and…nothing! No great epiphany, no transformation into a serene, peaceful, non-combative person for you.
Sod that, I’m off to the doctor for a prescription!
Right? The need for instant gratification and quick wins is not met in holistic practices. You probably won’t even know you’re changing until one day, maybe weeks or months in when you suddenly realise ‘Hey, I’m relaxed, this thing that would once have sent me into a towering rage is barely lighting my fuse.’
Unsteadiness – This isn’t about wobbling when trying to do a tree pose (standing on one leg). It’s about wobbling in your commitment to yourself and your daily practice. This is different from carelessness because you’ve made a commitment, you’re all in and you’re showing up and doing your daily practice and then…you wobble.
You just stop, you were making progress, you could feel it and that triggered a nervous system response. Your changing! Stop everything!
A wobble. The important thing to do with a wobble is recognise it for what it is and once you’ve done that and it could take hours, days, weeks, or longer. But once you realise you simply wobbled, its time to get right back into your daily practice.
And you will wobble, We all do. Its human nature. the thing you aim for is to recognise a wobble faster and go back into your practice sooner.
All you have to do now is start laying done your foundation for good mental health now you know the traps to avoid.
And thank you to James ALtucher for the introduction to The Yoga Sutras and how to use them.
PS. Feeling stuck? Anxious? Unable to break out of that cycle of doom and gloom thinking? Or overcome the above obstacles by yourself?
Then get in touch, that’s what my work does and does it damn well! This program is designed for men but the same work is available to women. Don’t stay disconnected a moment longer. Find your way back to your heart and soul and reconnect to who you were born to be. And start building the foundations to a happy, strong, healthy life!