How Disease Works; Cognitive Dissonance and the Feedback Loop by Frank Carone
No matter how healthy we are – we will eventually leave this world (sorry to break it to you !).... We can, however, live more efficiently, calmly, and happily. Life will never be easy, but it doesn't mean we can't feel at ease. The great spiritual traditions of the world have all addressed this 'dis' 'ease' (lack of ease) within human experience. From the First Noble Truth of Suffering (Pali):
What is sorrow? The sorrow arising from this or that loss or misfortune which one encounters, the worrying oneself, the state of being alarmed, inward sorrow, inward woe-this is called sorrow. And what is Pain? The bodily pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by bodily contact. - The Buddhist Bible.
Basically, existence is suffering because we have a body, sense perception, cognition, and thoughts. In Buddhism, they call the accumulation of consciousness The Five Aggregates; Form ( physical organs ), Sensation ( feels good/feels bad ) , Perception ( how we interpret sensation ), Mental Formation ( mental conditioning ), and, Consciousness ( our experience of our six senses – sight, hearing,smelling, tasting, touching, and mind ). These accumulate to form a mental being that can feel; good, bad, or, neutral. Much of the time we can feel quite dull.
So, when does pain turn into suffering? 'dis' 'ease' turn into a disease ? Where did stress come from? Because we are a mental being with dynamic consciousness, we are endowed with a flowing moral awareness. Our senses only absorb the outer world, but the inner world is the domain of the mind. Most of the time we feel neutral about what we see, hear, smell etc., however, we may feel good, or absolutely terrible about it. Even a thought that arises can be something we embrace or cower in fear from. The feeling or thought of 'goodness' makes us want more, the feeling of 'badness' makes us repel that experience. Most of the time it is useful – we never put our hand on a hot stove more than once, for instance. It is, however, the grasping, clinging, repulsion, addictive aspect of the mind that creates stress.
The Psychological concept of Cognitive dissonance developed by Leon Festinger (1919–89), states thatstress is the result of having our beliefs, behaviors, and mental constructs challenged with new information. The new mental construct challenges the old. Stress is an uneasy feeling created within the self because of this new world view that challenges the other – this creates 'dissonance' – a tense feeling (stress) which the person then tries to adjust in order to regain balance. The pain and suffering comes from the clinging to, or, rejection of, our good and bad feelings, thought and actions. Buddhists would say we suffer because we can not recognize that we are impermanent; that the delusions created by the senses and mind become more solid in construction, and. we become identified with those delusions.
Festinger said we attempt to resolve dissonances in four ways: we either change how we think or behave; justify how we think or behave by changing our minds; justify how we think or behave by adding new thoughts; ignore any information that conflicts with existing beliefs. These are attempts to create internal and external harmony. The problem here is that we can not necessarily trust our senses, thoughts, beliefs. Our mind and senses are biased and shapes our reality to those biases – how can we trust our cognition if it is an approximation of reality ( and sometimes we are totally off base! ). The result of continuous dissonance is an unstable consciousness that is infected with doubt and anger. In some, the cognitive dissonance convinces them to cling even harder to their beliefs and mental constructs despite the stress. Stress can distort emotions, posture, organ structure and function.
Stress also has a hardening effect on us. Muscles tighten, connective tissue becomes less elastic, plaque' forms, toxins build-up, blood pressure rises and emotions become more entrenched. Stress causes early death if unchecked by countermeasures like meditation, massage, yoga, energy work and healing, or, going out into Nature. After prolonged conditioning to dissonance, the bodily tissues condense, get hard, and begin to waste away, and, disrupt the natural chemical balance in the body. The dissonance and stress, like a note on an electric guitar, begins to feedback; the mind of the stressed out individual resonates a note at growing volumes within itself. Stress becomes a conditioned response; we feel tense, and, the tension creates more tense / ill feeling, which creates more tension and stress, and, so on. Most of the time we heed the ill feeling and adapt, but, stress can work on the unconscious level.
It is our nature to be quiescent, silent, and stable. Stress is learned – absorbed through our senses and cognition. We can step out of the dissonance and constant mental adjustments by doing nothing; simply sit and breathe. The spirit can override the destructive dissonances and feedback loops, it only needs internal space cleared.
The 3 Doshas: Your Past, Present and Future by Rina Thibault
A monk and his student were walking to a retreat. They came upon a small river, and a woman was there. The woman needed to cross the river but she didn't want to get her clothes wet. So the elder monk offered to carry her across on his back. When they got to the other side, the monks continued their walk. After a while the younger monk said, “ Why did you carry that woman? You know it is against the ordained rules to touch a woman!” The older monk replied, “What woman? I left her back at the river.” Like the young novice monk, we can easily get our thoughts stuck in the past, forgetting the fruitful lessons of the present.
In this month's article I will be diving into a basic Ayurvedic principle called the doshas. Why is this important to understand? Well, for starters, many of us are unaware of our energy flow and it is directly related to our thoughts; constantly changing and evolving from one to another. It is brought on by different emotions and how we process them. It is this processing stage that determines our energetic flow.
Why is it important to have a basic understanding of our dosha?
“The doshas are the underlying energetic forces behind the workings of both body and mind.” Dr.David Frawley, Dr.Subhash Ranade and Dr. Avinash Lele, Ayurveda and Marma Therapy: Energy Points in Yogic Healing.
By not understanding the workings of our body and mind, we are ignoring the signs of natural interventions of the body. If we let our body and mind to their own demise, we are letting ourselves go down a spiral path of unhealthy habits and disease. You don't need to fill out an Ayurvedic constitution test. You simply need to look at your pace: the pace of how you eat, talk, drive, walk and think.
Are your thoughts stuck in the past (Kapha -earth), present (Pitta-fire), or future (Vata-air)? Our rate of pace also changes, as well as the quality. Just like some of us like to use different kinds of transportation to get to our destination- car, bus, bicycle, etc.
Are you the type that likes to walk fast? Always planning ahead making sure your week is always filled up? Multitasking? Are you always thinking of the future? You may be bitten by the Vata bug.
Or are you the type that likes routine, maybe a bit unflexible? Like to take your time? Always thinking about what happened to your life? Always thinking about what has happened? Is eating a way to cope with stress? You probably caught the Kapha flu.
What's the best prescription for this? A multi-Pitta vitamin. Pitta thinking tends to be in the present moment. Their lives are systematic but flexible and very grounded. They also have energy to sustain and cope with everyday stress. They are also in touch with their health and have good eating and exercise habits. But- left unchecked they can either burn out their fire too quickly (+Vata) or can't generate enough fire (+Kapha) to continue on. How do we take this Pitta vitamin? The key is in the breath, specifically our breathing rate. We all have a degree of Pitta in us, it exists in our abdomen, the middle of our body; the everyday digestive process take a lot of energy. Imagine a fire right behind our navel, and we need to let this fire burn continuously. We control or stoke our inner fire with our breath. If we breathe too quickly we build up a huge fire or if we don't breathe enough our fire will likely extinguish.
There are many techniques to help us control and exercise our breathing, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises. One technique would be to sit and just relax. While you are inhaling and exhaling, relax your whole torso, rib cage, the muscles around your rib cage; relax the lungs, the stomach and abdomen. Eventually, you will start to notice things about your breathing. All you have to do is observe and continue to relax. Remember, when you start thinking and analyzing, you've lost the present moment. To bring yourself back to the moment, just breathe.