Maybe the biggest delusion we humans subscribe to is that we have control over the thoughts we think. But, as I often say to my yoga students, if we had control over “our” thoughts, wouldn’t we be able to choose at will to think happy, pleasant and peaceful thoughts and, in the same way, just completely exclude from our mental experience all thoughts that cause us to suffer? If you think you really have the power to magically change the direction of your thoughts at any moment and by the sheer power of will, just wait a minute and see what your mind does next time someone pushes one of your buttons.
As a yoga teacher, shouldn’t I be teaching that we can and should control our thoughts?! First off, I don’t like to should, on myself or anyone else. And more importantly, I know from my own experience as a human that being able to customize what thoughts we allow in and which ones we keep out is just not possible, at least not for any length of time. My biggest pet peeve in the world of yoga teaching are useless platitudes like this: “leave your worries behind” and “drop all negative thoughts,” or some variation of that. I’ve been in such classes and each time I wanted to ask the teacher how that method was working for her? Not so well, I bet. But saying it sounds oh so spiritual.
Have you noticed this funny thing with thoughts: the more you think, including thinking about how you shouldn’t think, the more thoughts proliferate, multiplying faster than rabbits? The good news is that it’s not necessary to block any thoughts from your experience, not that you could if you tried. All you need to do is drop the contents of your mind into your heart. This is not some complicated or esoteric or airy fairy method of avoiding your humanity, but a real-life practical way to get out of the head and into the heart.
This is exactly what happens during yoga practice, whether the teacher explicitly calls the process dropping the mind into the heart, or, more likely, just keeps inviting you to focus on your breath. We breathe into the chest and belly and therefore move energy into those areas and out of the head, where most humans live most of the time. My first few yoga classes changed my life because I didn’t know until then that it was even possible to be in a state other than the one that was most familiar to me: the mental merry-go-round, complete with the soundtrack creepier than circus music.
Dropping the mind into the heart happens every time we simply turn our attention away from the thoughts, which is very different than trying to stop them, and focus our awareness instead on breathing, which automatically takes us into the heart. The head represents the ego, the part of the mind addicted to seeing the world as a problem, and the heart represents the wholeness of our being, which knows that there is no such thing as a problem. The whole (heart) is clearly vaster than just one part (ego), so the heart can easily swallow up, digest and metabolize any mental content.
If you think this method of dropping the mind into the heart is too simple to work, just ask yourself whether you ever tried it, or how often you use it if you’re familiar with it. It’s one thing to know theory but quite another to put that theory into practice. Again, theory happens in the head and practice happens in the heart.
Next time you find yourself trapped in a cerebral hell, try this method of dropping the contents of the mind into the heart. It may not be easy at first to access and fully feel the heart, which may feel like it’s wearing a bulletproof vest to protect you from getting hurt again and again. But no matter what your wounds are, remember that the heart represents the totality of your being. Your heart is an infinite container. It’s been waiting for you for ages to finally see that you don’t have to stay any longer in the tiny prison cell of your mind, when all of the universe is right there under your nose.