Cure Depression Now!
Happiness Challenge / September 17, 2019
You are not stuck with your brain!
The human brain is an amazing machine. It can learn, unlearn and relearn skills and habits. The phenomenon of neuroplasticity enables the brain to reorganize itself according to behavior, environment, emotions and thoughts.
All individuals start out with a plastic brain holding the ability to learn new patterns. Plasticity can both help and hurt our growth. For example if we challenge ourselves, this signals the brain to be flexible, creative and resilient resulting in growth. On the other hand, if we take the path of least resistance i.e not trying new things, we teach our brain to become less active.
The thoughts we think repeatedly create pathways in the brain and gradually these thoughts become our natural response. This holds true for positive and negative thoughts. Research has shown that mental illnesses such as depression occur as a result of negative neuroplasticity. The main challenge here is to break the cycle of automatic negative thoughts that characterize an illness such as depression.
If you have ever felt trapped by a negative thought pattern despite your best efforts, don't worry. This simply indicates that you need to try harder to break away from this pattern by thinking the opposite thought.
The first step in moving towards positive neuroplasticity is to become aware of the negative thought pattern.
The second step is to replace it with the opposite positive thought. Exercise, proper diet, yoga and meditation promote physical brain changes to facilitate positive neuroplasticity. Through patience and perseverance we can gradually change our mindset to hold positive thoughts for progressively longer periods.
In this video, Swamiji talks about how we can identify which thought patterns are beneficial for us and train ourselves to hold these thoughts.
Podcast - How To Stop Negative Thoughts and Bring Positive Change in Your Life
Video Transcript - How To Stop Negative Thoughts and Bring Positive Change in Your Life
Maharajji gives the example. He says, “When you are eating, sometimes you get a (kankar?), a stone. Now what do you do? Do you say, ‘AAgaya to aane do. Ab kha lo isko’ (Hindi). You are alert. Oh, what happened? There’s a stone. Immediately you will reject it. Why? It’s not worthy of eating. If it goes inside gadbad karega (Hindi). So we are so careful, when it comes to putting physical things inside. And with the thought process we are careless. Harboring hatred, harboring envy, harboring resentment. Right? It’s a ubiquitous problem. Half the energies go in this: in the hatred, envy, resentment, fear. Now these are unwholesome thoughts. So first of all we need be aware: this thought is not good for me. When we are aware, we can then put our practice into action. And what is the practice to put into action? Maharishi Patanjali says you practice the reverse thought. In other words, practice a thought to neutralize that thought. Supposing you had got the thought of pride. Now what to do? Should we just accept it, and let it go inside? If it does, it will dirty the inside. So you have to take immediate action. What is the immediate action? You take it out and throw it away. And you practice a thought of humbleness. Practice a reverse thought.
Habits will be neutralized by reverse habits. A habit is extremely strong. And a habit has its own force. To break a habit requires tremendous force. When a rocket is shot into space by NASA (you can ask Vinodji because he works in aerospace), you see the first few seconds need the maximum fuel. And very often, if you saw Apollo 11, that first portion was the biggest. And after it became empty, it dropped out. Then the second one was smaller, and the third one was even smaller. Where it was going I don’t know. It was not going…some people say it was going some other place but nevertheless. So this force of gravitation has to be broken with a tremendous force. Similarly, we all have the force of habits within ourselves. And these habits are material habits. Our repeated thinking has created these channels in the mind. And because we have lived in the world of Maya for all these ages, they are all material habits, unproductive habits: negative thinking, blaming, procrastination.
There are varieties of habits; the diseases of Maya are infinite. There is paralysis by analysis. You know, some people, I have been visiting Bay area since so many years, now eight years, and some people are still analyzing. They have not taken the next step. They will come every time. They will listen. They will analyze. They will get some intellectual entertainment and go. What are you doing? (Person) ‘I am analyzing.’ So this is the disease of paralysis by analysis. And there are others, who are agreeing, “It’s all right, but then, Swamiji, you know when the conditions get all right I will do it. Right now there’s a problem.” As somebody said that there are those who say, “When all the traffic lights become green, then I’ll get out of my house.” So they keep waiting. Because they wait for everything to line up into a favorable situation.
So the travails of the material mind are numerous. And the treacherous pathways of its destruction are numerous. We have to be very careful. And we have to watch for them. So how do you watch for them? The thought that is beneficial will give you a bliss from inside. You will know it by the feeling of the thought. That thought will be uplifting. When you think a kind thought, a thought of austerity, a thought of sacrifice, a thought of renunciation, a thought of selflessness, a thought of service. The feeling the thought creates will let you know this is good for you. And when you think a deleterious thought, the thought will create a bad feeling within you. Whether it is something as gross as hurting others, or something very subtle as just being selfish, the thought will have a different feeling. So the sadhak is one who is thought by thought checking out and careful. And then breaking the harmful thought habits with the beneficial thought habits.
There’s the story of Swami Vivekanand. He was going from Kolkata to Dakshineswar. Now on the way it was night, and it started raining. To take shelter from the rain, he entered a shop. It was a florist shop. The person had flowers there. There were also some fisherwomen, who were returning, having sold their fish in Kolkata. They were returning with their empty baskets. And because of the rain, they at the same time reached the same shop for shelter. The shopkeeper was a kind person. He said, “Alright, I’ll give shelter to all of you. These women, they can come inside where the flowers are and they can sleep there. And you can leave your tokarees, baskets, outside in which you were selling the fish, and the Swamiji can sleep out here.” Now Swamiji tried his best to sleep. But with those fish baskets by the side he was completely suffocated. He said, “This is beyond my capacity.” And the women inside, also, they were trying their best to sleep. But there was the fragrance of the rose and the jasmine, etc. They’re saying ‘how suffocating; we just cannot find peace today’. So finally they both came out, and they discussed. They decided to swap places. Swamiji went inside and slept blissfully amongst the flowers. The fisherwomen, they sprinkled some water on their baskets and they said ‘all is well again.’ Swamiji said, “Look how we human beings are governed by habits. They got habituated to the smell of the fish. I was unhabituated to it. They felt comfortable in that position. I was uncomfortable in the same position.” So Maharishi Patanjali said that you practice the reverse of negative thoughts. To cut those negative thought patterns, practice thinking good of others. Doesn’t take a big deal. Right? Practice giving them the benefit of the doubt. Practice thoughts of kindness. These are all wholesome thoughts. And unkindness, being unmerciful to others, etc. Hardness (?) (10:12). These are unwholesome thoughts. So Maharishi Patanjali says, “That I have given you the Niyam codes of conduct. Whenever thoughts opposite to these arise, you cut them out by the reverse practice.”