Doctors often prescribe a medication called cortisone to reverse inflammation and swelling of some bodily organs. However, they caution to use it only sparingly as over time, cortisone has the effect of breaking down the organs. It ultimately weakens parts of our body. Organs start having trouble. We may only use the prescribed cortisone for extreme circumstances, but what scientists and doctors have come to realise is that we produce our own natural cortisol in the body.
We have hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which are released when we are in fear. These hormones give the body the fight or flight reaction. It either gives the body a burst of strength to fight off a threat to our lives, or to give us the speed to run faster to escape a predator. These are useful hormones for survival. However, in modern times, we no longer face threats such as running away from large elephants, lions, bears, unless in a jungle. Instead, we react to problems that are not life-threatening with same fight or flight hormones.
Since people do not know how to deal with problems in a calm way, they resort to anger. When angry, we release the cortisol and adrenaline hormones into our system. When we stay in an angry state for a long time, the cortisol rushing through our system begins to cause damage to our organs just as prescribed cortisone can do when administered too frequently to the body. We are causing problems to our physical body, which is supposed to remain sturdy and strong for the work that our mind needs to do to help our soul go back to God. Similarly, the cortisol in the body affects the mind. When angry, it keeps our attention focused on negativity. Instead of focusing on the true purpose of life which is to know God, we are focused on the problems of the world.
There are many ways our misdirected attention distracts us from focusing on God. The saints exhort us to live as if we were godly. By daily meditation and cultivating ethical virtues, we can lead a godly life.
How can we purify our mind and inculcate ethical virtues in our life?
Self-introspection is a chiselling tool for us. If we are a clay sculpture, self-introspection is a chisel by which we can smooth our rough edges and imperfections so we can be the masterpiece God intended us to be. The imperfections are not just for the sake of beauty. The imperfections are the flaws that the mind uses to keep us from returning to God. The imperfections are the weaknesses we have in which the mind wins over the soul.
For example, if we have the imperfection of anger, the mind uses that to its advantage to keep us engaged in thoughts of getting even with someone, feeling hurt by someone, feeling injustice, or wanting to seek revenge. When we are angry, we become absorbed in the reason for the anger, and we feel upset over what someone has done to us. We ruminate in our minds what happened and we obsess over what to do about it. Some people dwell on their thoughts of anger for a few moments and some people carry their anger over years.
Think of how much of our lifespan is spent in anger. Then think of what better use we can make of our time by meditating or remembering God. Self-introspection shows us whether we are wasting our time with useless anger, or we can make better use of the time by sitting with a still mind and remembering God. The choice is ours to make.
Another example of how we can use the tool of self-introspection to help us progress spiritually is to weed out greed. Greed keeps us engaged in wanting more and more of the world. The mind finds this easy to use as a way to keep us from finding God. Ego is another imperfection that the mind uses to its advantage. It makes us think too much of ourselves instead of thinking about God. Ego makes us think we are intelligent, beautiful, rich, powerful, and gifted and hence better than others. It makes us forget God. We may even think we do not need God.
We forget that God is the giver of any gifts we have. When we forget God, the mind fills us with the thoughts of ourselves. We start thinking more about our wealth, our beauty, our intelligence, and our talents. Instead of stilling our mind in meditation, our mind thinks about its vast kingdom of gifts and dwells on them.
We may even begin to hurt others who do not have the gifts we have. Then, we begin thinking about not only how great we are but also how insignificant everyone else is. The mind is happy that it has distracted us. If we recognise this imperfection through the process of introspection, we can overcome ego and gain humility. When we gain humility in life, we are like an empty cup waiting to receive God’s gifts. Then, the Light will pour forth and we can shift our awareness to the regions of Light within us.
Therefore, we may have received the grace to have a connection to the Light and Sound of God but we need to be careful and vigilant in our introspection to sanitise our mind of any imperfections that it may use to distract us. In this way, we can make choices that will lead us back to God. We can then choose the soul by switching our attention to absorption in God to enjoy the bliss that awaits us within through the practice of meditation.