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Given the amount of time and money spent on education, not to mention the amount of time politicians spend talking about it, isn’t it surprising that many people have never learnt the most important thing in life – how to work with their mental states. So many of the people we see at the Sean Barkes Clinic are suffering either directly or indirectly from their mental states; of course many people come for help with conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, but also many of the people who present with things like headaches or digestive disturbances do so, at least in part, because of an underlying mental or emotional disharmony. Most of these people have never learned how to work with their mental states; how, for example, to transform anxiety into calmness, resentment into love, gloom into joy, greed into contentment etc. If we are unable to recognise these states, and the need to work on them, and if we don’t know how to do that, we simply end up as the passive victims of our own minds, and it will make us ill. Funny, then, that we are not taught this as a matter of course – I’m talking about things like meditation, Qi Gong, yoga, philosophical exercises, even perhaps certain forms of prayer.

Maybe it’s because it’s not easy. Anyone who tries will know that, for instance, changing an attitude of long-standing resentment or anger is a very tough thing to do. Sometimes it might be a life’s work. But given that the choice is between trying to change it, and just passively suffering its consequences, which in Chinese Medical terms will probably be an impairment of the Liver’s ability to maintain the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body and mind, leading to anything from heartburn to migraines to a stroke, we need to at least try. But to do that we need to know how to try, we need some training in a discipline such as Qi Gong, meditation or similar. Just as there are exercises to strengthen a weak back, there are things we can learn which can liberate us from restrictive and illness causing negative mental states.

By the way, I’m not implying that all illness is due to our mental states. But mental states are a factor, either in causing illness, or in how we deal with it. And mental states are things we can effect, perhaps more than we realise.

Written by Vimalaprabha

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