Speech pathologist and student of mind science Cindy Shaw reveals how mental awareness can help you improve your happiness and take control of your life.
After twenty years as a speech pathologist in neuro-rehab, Cindy Shaw saw what some others couldn’t see, the connection between emotions and cognition. She understood that the mind is an important personal health asset.
“When I looked at my own mind, I could see I had what’s called a ‘monkey mind’. Our thoughts jump around rather uncontrollably. Our emotions can be up one minute and down another,” said Shaw. “There’s so much randomness going on in the mind. I was feeling like my mind had control over me and I wanted to have a method to get control over my mind.”
This realization led Shaw to training and studying ‘mind science’ with Tibetan teachers. In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Shaw shares some of what she has learned from her studies on the infinite potential of the mind.
What is mind science?
While the words ‘mind science’ may conjure up images of a new age, experimental discipline, Shaw shares that this evidence-based practice is quite the opposite. For over 3,000 years, the Tibetan people have been mastering introspection of the mind.
“What’s happened is that in pairing with neuro-scientists and physicists, they are starting to do rigorous investigation to see that these subjective ways of examining the mind are being verified through current research,” explained Shaw.
At its core, mind science is about examining our awareness or consciousness. Through various techniques, the practice takes a look at how our minds shape our daily lives.
“It’s about specifically being aware of our feelings or what we perceive through our senses: what we see, what we hear, what we taste and so on,” Shaw said.
Tibetan experts in the discipline study for 20 years after high school to get their Ph.D.. They look at science from various directions and the potential of the mind – like memorizing over 100 pages of information.
“The more that we open our mind to taking a more curious outlook on things, rather than thinking my way or the highway or having an immediate judgment about things, the more that we keep our mind open,” said Shaw. “The more we can tap into this really infinite potential of the mind.”
Training the emotional mind
What mind science teaches us is that we can control our mental states and emotions. When we investigate the source behind our negative mental states — jealousy, anger — we find we are our own enemies.
“If we really examine our minds during these negative mind states, we can see that the central actor is ‘me.’ There’s this extreme focus on self, on ‘mine’, and ‘I’” said Shaw. “Basically, we’re sitting on our pity pot.”
In order to overcome these negative emotions that narrow our mind, we need to recognize that we can change our perception. Shaw learned you can’t have two opposing states of mind at the same time.
“If we’re angry, then we’re not feeling love. If we’re feeling love, we’re not feeling anger,” Shaw said. “This gives us an antidote for the negative mind state by changing our perception, changing the way that we’re thinking to a positive mind state. Looking at it from an aspect of love rather than looking at it from an aspect of anger.”
But, adjusting your mindset takes time, determination and effort. Shaw has found that a good place to start is to interrogate the sources of suffering and question how to uproot those causes.
By deliberately seeking out positive mind states and challenging negative ones, we can begin to have control over our mind.
“Because humans have self awareness, it allows us to reflect and observe when something like anger or jealousy or anxiety arises. And we can oppose that” said Shaw. “We can take a look at those things and make a judgment that ‘Oh that’s not beneficial’.”
Pairing mind and body
Overall, having control of your mind and your happiness can help alleviate physical pain. When we look at pain as the fear of suffering, we see that the mind plays an integral role in our ability to heal.
“The real suffering is the fear of the pain,” said Shaw. “What really helps with that is to recognize it and start to work with it.”
Once we begin to look at our happiness as a personal health asset, it becomes more and more important to train our minds. We need to begin to take our mental health as seriously as we do our physical function.
“Our culture is geared towards the external world and looking at the causes and conditions externally,” Shaw explained. “But, how much of the time do we take a look at our mind, which is with us 24/7, and evaluate how we are doing? What are the causes of love? What are the causes of compassion? Those are the things that could help us in the long run to be happier.”
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