Ahimsa: freedom from pain
What could be the evolutionary origin of mind dis-order? If it did not have some natural purpose, it would have disappeared long ago.
Just thinking, the act of entertaining our thoughts, presents a bit of “normal” insanity— insanity because we are perceiving/considering what is-not. All thinking is an escape from a pure perception of what-is, the present. When we rest in the moment, we are free and happy and generally unproductive.
Not-normal has been seen as closer to the supernatural, and in smaller communities, as in wide ranging cities, the swath of what is “normal” is very forgiving. Today, disorder is defined when it negatively impacts our quality of life: a subjective experience until it isn’t.
In greek, “mania” carried meanings of both madness and divination: knowing what others did not, being at a unique height.
At the opposite end of the mood spectrum is the Dostoyovsky-an idea that happiness corrupts thought; that depressed thinking is clearer than the delusions of joy. Cold, gray, drizzly cities produce the best poets, inventors, industrialists.
Ancient yogis did not philosophize about moods as much as states of mind: ahimsa is the state of being unharmed, unharmable, an inner purity that carries the same translation as the Latin innocence. This state of being is a second naturalness, unlike childhood in that it is born of wisdom, of the perfect control that gives rise to true freedom.
Freedom is the ability to consciously choose to step out of the cycles of pain.
Pain within comes in cycles: pain to healing to pleasure to pain, ad nauseum. The pain between people comes in chains of one hurting another who receives the hurt and then carries it, passes it on. Sometimes pairs of people, or families, carry their own chains that self propagate through an inertia, habitude. These cycles are also attachments, bonds— ways that we identify with ourselves, our relationships.
Bonds broken release energy; and to end the cycles of pain, there must be specific people who choose to step away from the cycles and chains, becoming islands of un-harm.
What is harm, what is hurt? It is separation, the separation between people (“he caused me pain” rather than “we experienced pain”) as well as separation within ourselves (this “part” of me hurts the whole me). The net effect of any separation is a loss of energy to creating/upholding boundaries, to self protection, and to the necessary healing.
Healing requires time: it is a process of transformation, from hurt to not hurt. This means that we have to be not-present in order to come out of the pain, and also that hurt ends when time ends, which is to say, when we are present.
There is sometimes pain in the present. Pain is experienced by the mind through chemical signaling; and through the body by mechanical signaling that is transmitted to the brain via electrical signaling. Pain is the perception, the experience, of energy as painful. It is trainable.
Suffering is different from pain; dukkah is felt when the feeler is overwhelmed by the experience of unprocessed pain. Its opposite, sukkah, is sweetness, ever-present when we step out of the cycles of pain-pleasure and rest in a timeless now-ness.
What happens when we experience dis-order in the mind? Not only are we pulled away from the present, we experience slowness and dullness in both thinking and perceiving. And yet we continue our observable actions, working, speaking, etc, so that our behavior begins to seem insane, though usually in retrospect, because the actions are not informed by clear, quick perceptions of current reality.
The skill is to notice when your perceptions are slow but your actions are continuing— at which point you duck out of actions in order to clear out the blocks, the causes of slowness/dullness, which could be, counter-intuitively, an over-activity.
The usual suspect is stress.
What underlies stress? Misperceptions of space-time and energetic capacity, along with habitual or acute accumulation of repressed, unexpressed emotions.
To undo stress, we undo the causes, coming back into sanity by stepping into the pure present, even if that means stepping away from productivity (what are you producing when stressed? Nothing fantastic.) These are the moments to disappate the fog, regather, recenter energy. Polish the mind by clearing the senses (pratyahara); circulate good energy through asana and pranayama; express emotions positively through artistic channels. When we can do this real time, then our emotions do not lead to irrational behavior, but rather, inform rational awareness of thoughts, intuitions, perceptions.
All of this is much easier when we learn to step away from self-importance, seeing the broader context of life as a game where all rules are illusory. Then we naturally feel playful, creative, positive— the sweetness/ sukkah of innocence/ahimsa, the second naturalness of living freely.