The world appears before your eyes; therefore, it mostly appears depending on how we perceive it, not how it truly is.
If only we were able to see the world as it is, however, it never seems to be that simple. In addition, our perception changes frequently, depending on our changing moods.
I’d like to invite you to start contemplating your moods. Why? Because they define your reality – it is not only emotions that do it – it is the very container that holds your emotions that defines it even more – your underlying moods. Moods matter more than you can imagine, yet, they are seldom mentioned and spoken about.
What to do when you find ourselves seeing your life as bleak, unfair, hostile, boring, unpleasant, unfulfilling, unhappy, etc.?
The very first, most simple and readily accessible tool we all have on our disposal is the observer – the watcher. You are that observer, the watcher!
We observe, we watch the world around us all the waking time of our days. Mostly we watch the outside world, happenings around us, news feeds on our mobile phones, screens, people around us, weather conditions, colors, cars, changes, etc.
The question is, how much of your day do you dedicate watching what goes on inside you?
Do you ever observe what your body is doing? For example, when you go for a walk, you sit down, you drive your car, type a message – do you ever observe your breath, do you ever notice how your left- or right-hand moves, how your legs move, your fingers, how your head turns, neck bends, how your eyes go from left to right? Well, perhaps when you go for a yoga session to do your asanas – when you are constantly reminded to be fully aware. But what if yoga asanas became more integrated as part of your daily life and you become the watcher?
This kind of observation can happen in parallel to watching the outside world – it will not compromise your ability to see or for you to become less productive – on the contrary, it will make you more aloof, more in the body. You will operate in a more grounded way – from a place where you are coming from to face the world around you.
Now, this is the easiest, entry point of the 4 steps of the watcher that you’re going to learn about in this post.
Being in the body, being aware of your body and what it does is the first step of strengthening your watcher.
Next step, an important step is to start watching your thoughts – as you brush your teeth, jog, swim, eat your food, or put your clothes on – what are you thinking about? Now this may be a bit trickier – but doable. If you have started watching your body and have done it a few times you have already began training your mind to become more attentive, responsive to your command.
It’s a bit like training your puppy – if you ever had one, you will know that it takes a great deal of patience and repetition, but it works and it makes life much more pleasant and enjoyable. Same applies to our thoughts.
Once in a while, try and catch your thoughts – find out what you are thinking about when you catch yourself off guard. You can even use your phone alarm – set a random reminder that pops up like “Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot Time”. Make it a fun game you play with yourself. 😊
Once you have built up enough observation muscle and can easily catch & watch your thoughts arising and passing away, you can up your game to a new level and start watching your feelings – your emotions. Just watching – never judging. Remember, no one likes to be judged – this includes you judging yourself. If you notice being sad – ok – simply say to yourself – I see sadness, this too shall pass. Same with happiness, joy, trust, fear, surprise, disgust, anger, anticipation, etc.
The rule of the game is to remain the watcher of the game. It’s like, when you watch the NBA game – you are not allowed to play in the court, but you are welcome to watch.
So, like this, you start watching your game of feelings, emotions and start recognizing your own NBA players, your rising and falling stars, lead guards, shooters, defenders, highest achievers. You start watching which of them lead the game, lead in the score – is it joy, lust, fear, or anger?
Try watching without aversion or attachment – if you can, try to remain impartial. When emotions arise and peak you don’t want confrontations because it usually backfires. This includes judgement, scolding, shaming, blaming yourself. It ends up adding fuel to the fire, it strengthens the emotions and weakens the watcher. You want to strengthen the watcher instead.
As soon as you enter the field of your emotions as a peaceful watcher, you have already done your job.
For example, if emotions were characters in a story, they would feel like we felt when we were little kids playing in a kindergarten. When left on our own, behind closed doors, without anyone watching, we eventually started shouting, fighting for different toys, pinching each other. Than, all of a sudden, the door opened and in came the teacher – completely composed and quiet. Merely by their appearance and presence the whole room came to a still. No more fighting, no more shouting and causing havoc – the pleasant play resumed.
That’s exactly the role of your watcher. The more you practice watching the stronger becomes your presence when you enter your home field. You will be amazed how incredibly empowering it feels once you recognize that force within you. Same like we admired our kinder garden teachers – they all looked like heroes to us when we were little, we all looked up to them. The same principle applies with you being a watcher – and we can all grow up to that level and achieve that strength and position. In fact – some of you might have already become that very teachers you once admired.
Ok – now that you became a proficient watcher of your body, thoughts, and feelings, it’s time to up the game to the ultimate level when you start recognizing the container that holds all the emerging feelings, appearing and disappearing thoughts, and your body motions.
The mighty moods!
Moods are incredibly mysterious, changing, but less volatile than thoughts and feelings and they are longer lasting. Moods define the course of action. They act like music in the background, they set the tone. They either make us sing, jump up and down, put us in a contemplative state, or help us fall asleep. Think about your favorite concert where thousands of people share the same mood. Or, remember going to an event or a party – the mood sets the tone of your state of being and your behavior. It pulls out your emotions and it flavors your thoughts.
Moods are incredibly important – if you make you decision when you’re in an agry or arrogant mood you can damage your reputation, hurt someone, you can end up making very poor choices that you regret later on when your angry mood changes to a more placid, composed one.
Hence it is essential to learn to navigate and set the tone of your own moods and not allow the moods to set the tone for your erratic behavior and reactions. It depends from one person to another, however, if you’re a powerful person with a strong personality it will exacerbate your moods and impact many people, not just your family members and those around you. Consequences depend on the role you represent and play in your life and in this world. It makes a huge difference when you can manage your own moods. Becoming a vigilant watcher sure helps.
When it comes to moods, I think it’s important to point out the correlation between food we eat and our moods.
For example, how do your moods change when you suddenly take a lot of sugar (white, refined sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruits, saturated with sugar, a bag of dry fruits, products with high amount of sugar, unprocessed carbo hydrates like white wheat products and white rice that have a faster release of sugar instead of unrefined grains with gradual, long-term release).
How does that affect your mood? Well, if you don’t burn the excess energy that sugar creates in your body with some sort of physical or mental activity it finds different outlets, which are usually your poor habits. You get all hyped up for the first 15 minutes and then drop down and end up being all cranky. Sugar acts on the same part of the brain as cocaine does – it instantly releases serotonin and dopamine.
Watch it! Observe yourself, your body, your thoughts, your feelings and see what happens when you take excess sugar. Watch a kid, the one that is lively by default – what happens when you give him or her a couple of candies and they get a sugar rush? It changes their mood.
I suggest you try and go as much sugar free as you can – “sugar free ‘coz you want to be”! Look at sugar more as a medicine that helps you when you feel lethargic or need some energy – just like coffee. Take it as your medicine, don’t let it become a habit.
Note: I’m not a food expert. I simply used sugar as an example, because we can all relate to it and it’s a powerful indicator, having noticed how it affects me and what it does to my moods, my feelings, and thoughts. It has a strong impact and I’m trying my best to remain as composed a possible in life. It serves me much better – that kind of cool, consistent mood or equanimity, hence I am aware of what I eat and how much of what. You are what you eat – though I would refine this statement and say – you become what you eat and the food you eat impact your moods.
For those of you interested to delve deeper into this topic… According to the Yogic tradition there are 3 main imperfections that give birth to the mind:
Moha or delusion is the root of illusion, root of all cravings, imagining something that is not – it’s your false imagination, when you start thinking the grass is greener on the other side, or you imagine the other person to be perfect and you are later disappointed. You did not see them for what they were, but for what you wanted to see in them.
Raga or attraction – you crave things you think will fulfill you, because you think you are not whole already as you are, you consistently look for accomplishment. You think you are small and incomplete.
Dwesha or aversion, resistance – you think you have to keep yourself safe from others and the world, as if there are things outside that will diminish you. Again, you believe and behave as if you are small and incomplete. Whereas just the opposite is true – you already are perfect and complete.
Moha, Raga and Dwesha produce 6 children, which are the 6 defining roots of our moods. They are:
- Kama – lust
- Krodha – anger
- Lobha – greed
- Madha – arrogance
- Moha – delusion that causes illusion
- Maatsarya – jealousy
Apart from the 3 imperfections there are also 3 elixirs that can help. They don’t produce any children and lead one towards unity. They are:
- Attraction to the self – longing for Atman, God
- Grace of existence, universe
- Revealing potency of the self – the watcher, visibility, clarity
We all have our predominant moods – something that defines our character, what we bring along when we enter the room – some people bring cheer, some heaviness, some are bubbly, witty, grumpy, negative, positive, etc. Modes change throughout the day, from one day to another, as well as through different phases of our lives.
When it comes to moods – you can help set the stage of how you want your day to pan out.
You have total control over many factors that influence your moods. For example:
- Environment you choose to be in (nature, shopping mall, rural, urban, noisy, quiet)
- Food you choose to eat
- Music you listen to, movies you watch
- People you hang out with
- Activities you engage yourself in
- Roles you choose to play in your life
- Thoughts you generate, marinate in, emotions you feed and feel
These are just a few I can think of this moment.
For example, I like writing, because it sets me in a particular mood where I start sharing what I have learned in my life, mostly based on my experiences and observation. Writing acts like an outlet for my insights. It puts me in a self-seeking mood. Whatever I have learned and find valuable I like to share; it makes me feel grateful that I can. I like to connect to kind, likeminded people; it makes me content. I choose healthy food, with very little sugar, I like to meditate, do yoga, dance, travel, explore, exercise, keep in motion and good shape and have couple of interesting challenges. It all sets me up for the right kind of mood to help generate pleasant emotions and have conducive thoughts that support my life goals – all of it defines my lifestyle. That’s why I‘m internally motivated to choose what I know is good for me.
Be a watcher, not a mood swinger!
When is the most conducive time of the day to watch your moods? It depends from one person to another – generally speaking, it usually happens during transitions – when you switch from work to home mood, during sunrises, sunsets, while having a quiet lunch or a dinner, going from one activity to another, waking up from sleep, just before falling asleep.
Try it out, see what works for you. The ultimate indicator is your level of inner peace, how content you are with your life, how much energy you have throughout your day and the joy you feel inside – that’s what ultimately leads to happiness in life.
The road can be paved with all sorts of material and the 4 steps presented above are only one of the examples of how you can go about your day, your life. They work for me and if what I have shared adds a stepping stone towards your happiness it’s surely brings happiness to me. Every little bit counts, that’s for sure!
Have a great day. I wish you all the best.