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I grew up in a tradition where anytime there was a difficult situation, the grown ups around me would resort to Tasbih, a form of chanting using rosary beads. I was 18 years old when my mother went for a brain surgery and I was introduced to a special Tasbih that I was encouraged to use when I felt anxious or worried. I did find that it helped settle the internal turmoil I was experiencing. Fast forward 27 years later, and I have needed to use Tasbih once again to support myself in my grief towards my mother's passing.
When we are in the grip of overwhelming emotions such as aggression, anxiety, fear and grief, we often forget that these emotions are generated in response to what our mind is thinking and believing. Behind every emotion, there is an underlying thought. Panic results when the thought-feeling cycle continues uninhibited.
"Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to the clouds- Sogyal Rinpoche
When our mind is like the clear blue sky, with no thought clouds, we experience clarity and calmness. The same calmness is experienced in the gap between two thoughts. In fact, the purpose of mindfulness of meditation is to increase this gap between our thoughts. The gap is where the true nature of mind resides!
_In fact, the purpose of mindfulness of meditation is to increase this gap between our thoughts.
The true nature of mind, therefore, is to be calm and spacious. However, the human brain is designed to protect the human species. How it perceives danger is determined by the life experience of the person and the set of beliefs already embedded in the subconscious mind. Alas, the Cortex or the thinking brain is not able to differentiate between real danger and perceived danger. Thought processes from the Cortex are perceived by the Amygdala and result in the Limbic brain producing biochemicals or 'molecules of emotion1' which flood the body and result in various sensations.
The true nature of these molecules, nothing more than neuro-peptides and their receptors, is to rise and fall. In other words, our emotions are meant to arise and fall like the waves in an ocean. However, people often react to these emotions, resisting them, judging them or wanting to fix them and they do this by generating more thoughts in response to that emotion. Now, the new thoughts generated produce another wave of molecules of emotion and in this way the cycle of thought-feeling-thought-feeling(....) is perpetuated!
So how does it help to use Tasbih, or prayer, or chanting a mantra for overwhelming emotions? What is really happening is that for a brief moment the thinking mind is replaced with a repetitious statement as in chanting or Tasbih. The destructive thought has now been replaced with a neutral thought. And the link between destructive thought-painful feeling is broken.
-The destructive thought has now been replaced with a neutral thought.
For a few minutes the body experiences peace and calm. The same peace and calmness that is the result of mindfully recognizing and choosing to break the destructive link between painful thought and painful feeling by focusing on present moment awareness, or mindful breathing. Of course, this alternative is possible only with practice and intention. Therefore, it is a conscious choice. Whichever mode you choose, it will be effective in breaking the Thought-Feeling cycle in that moment when you have been taken over by fear and anxiety, even anger and grief!
So what is your favourite mantra or Tasbih for breaking this connection in overwhelming moments?
1. Molecules of Emotion. Candace B. Pert, 1997
Tripty Hirani is a mother, wife, a Holistic Counsellor who runs her own practice. She loves to read and write, go for meditative walks in the bush and practice compassion and mindfulness at every opportunity.