The following topic has become so convoluted in our culture that you most likely have a bias or predisposition on it and will tune out. That is because the messenger(s) of this information has traditionally been from an extreme religious sect and/or culture you can not identify with. So I am going to strip away all the religious overtones and spiritual dialogue as we could just as easily be discussing this stuff over a beer in a bar. In fact, nothing could be more normal or natural than what I am about to share as it is a critically vital part within each of us. This is what makes all the confusion and stigma around this subject so bewildering. Just keep an open mind as you read this, no pun intended as I am referring to exactly that: Your Mind.
Perhaps the greatest public relations disaster ever may just be in the Meditation and Mindfulness field. Some ad agency seriously needs to launch a proactive advertising campaign to straighten the facts and offer a clear message as the misinformation is so far off the mark it is ludicrous. These disciplines go back over 2000 years yet the West has completely distorted them. How is it we can discuss matters of the body (i.e., Cancer, heart, diabetes, physical health) with compassion, empathy and no hesitation but elevate to the Mind and people get uncomfortable? It is as if we enter unchartered waters – muddy, murky, ambiguous, nebulous, mysterious.
The reality is your Mind is a fabulous instrument, a tool, and even a muscle that can be developed and honed. At its best, when used correctly, it is utterly fascinating and more powerful than any supercomputer. But it can also be destructive, destroying even the most brilliant among us in a multitude of ways both big and small.
Pretend you are hiking in the pristine mountains and come across a clear running stream. This is your mind in its most natural state, free and pure of toxins. But once we develop our sense of “me, myself, I”, aka Ego, we begin to attach to people and possessions and thus create emotions. The first glimpse of this may be as a child when someone steals your toy and you lash out in anger at a playmate. You are developing your identity and the toy is now “mine”. Emotional states such as anger, rage, hatred, anxiety – all ultimately based on fear – develop and create patterns in our mind. Each little episode is like dumping oil or toxic waste into your once perfectly pure running stream. As we evolve and live life, we will experience the full spectrum of negative emotions, thus creating issues including jealousy, resentment, lack of forgiveness and trust. Our stream of thoughts gets polluted as our Ego voraciously feeds on these negative emotions, magnifying and often distorting the reality as the Mind continuously replays the painful memories on a loop tape, over and over again. It builds and creates momentum, often overtaking us and sweeping us along in a frenzy as we then fantasize into the future all the while dwelling in the past. The poison permeates and surrounds the Mind with inner commentary. The internal voice in our head can be filled with vitriol, ranging from the petty, snide remark to a screaming argument. It may be as trivial as the neighbor you catch never cleaning up after his dog to a hurtful comment your spouse said five years ago. Of course, we have minimal or often no idea this repetition is happening to us within and consuming our internal thought pattern, but the seeds of resentment are planted and growing, often suppressed deep in our unconscious.
In other words, we don’t have conscious awareness of how our Mind has taken us over. Sure, we all know when we are sad, anxious or angry but are we aware of the intense mental energy force we fuel these emotions repeatedly with? We are no longer using our Minds as a productive tool or instrument but, rather, it is using us. We become our thoughts, owning them as if it is now reality when the truth is we may have completely distorted the facts. Thoughts can feel real, but often they are not true. We are no longer a person with anger but rather an angry person – yes, there is a difference. Our very own Mind is in the drivers seat, behind the wheel, and we are passively sitting in the back seat. We can often literally become a slave to our own Mind, its incessant and redundant thoughts and emotions, as if the lunatics are running the asylum. How did this happen? The following five tips may help you regain control:
1. Is this useful? Ask yourself this question after the seventeenth time of fantasizing how you’re going to confront and really give it to your neighbor who won’t clean up after his dog. Or even on something more practical like the twenty times you’ve pondered what time you have to leave to the airport for your plane departure tomorrow. I catch myself all the time when awakening to this repetition, smiling at my insanity, especially as I know I will never yell at my neighbor and always arrive at the airport way too early. Focus on being here now, in this moment – we waste an enormous amount of mental energy with these future fantasies and anxieties.
2. It is as it is Five powerful two-letter words. Essentially, it implies acceptance of the present – now – as it is the only moment that matters. You cannot change the past nor predict the future. Once you accept this reality, then you can act to resolve or improve your current situation. Our compulsion is to point the finger and blame someone or something: boss, ex, job, parents, the world – if only they hadn’t messed up your life you would be happy and at peace. Accept. It is as it is. Then, if necessary, act to make the positive change. The difference is now you are no longer tangled up in negative emotions and baggage.
3. Dream on Always dreaming of something better in the future robs you of the richness of the moment. It is like the present is some annoying hurdle or obstacle we need to overcome all the time. Is that not some type of madness? It is wonderful to be optimistic for the future but until we become at peace with now, we will always be wanting and craving that next thing: when I get my promotion, when I find my match, when I buy that sports car, when I take that vacation, when I just get through this day and have a relaxing dinner. When we reach that goal, we ride that short wave of happiness but quickly come crashing back to shore. We then fill that void by looking to attain the next future goal. Dream on if you think an event in the future will bring you eternal happiness. Only being aware and at peace in this moment can bring you sustainable joy.
4. Step aside See if you can step aside from your clear running stream that you are immersed in and view it, observing the flow of thoughts from an embankment high above and looking at it down below. You will quickly notice both the volume and redundancy of your constant stream of thoughts. The stream never stops, often in an endless loop. You are literally watching your ceaseless Mind at work, incessantly pumping out one thought after another. Who is noticing this? Yes, there are two entities within you: The thinking Mind and something far more vast beyond comprehension for most of us (this is where all the New Age books may have lost you). Can you notice this presence, the ability to watch your own Mind in action? If so, you quickly realize you are not your thoughts and are empowered with the ability to not attach, cling or become enveloped in your thinking, which often leads us down a destructive path. This creates space, a separation. For now, to simply be aware of this phenomenon of an entirely new dimension is enough to blow your Mind, as it did mine, and may direct you on the path for keener awareness and an ultimate awakening.
5. The Second Arrow You slip and fall down the stairs, breaking your leg. Physically, we know and understand there is pain, as if an arrow was shot directly into your leg. But we often then unconsciously shoot a second arrow into our Mind. This is a stealth arrow, sneaking in under our radar of awareness that we don’t see or understand the power it generates. It creates internal dialogue such as: I am getting old, I will never be able to dance again, this is the beginning of the end, why does this always happen to me, I am so clumsy no one will ever love me. We can feed on these negative thoughts, running rampant with them over and over again until they become a story and part of our internal dialogue. Ironically, this second arrow may ultimately cause you more pain than the original arrow. Accept the reality of the present moment: you broke your leg. Act as necessary to heal it, all the rest is unnecessary nonsense.
Nothing I have written about here is original content; just the opposite, it is deeply rooted in 2000 years of Buddhism and Hinduism and has been articulated a million different ways as these are all concepts taken from Mindfulness and Meditation. But this is my humble interpretation from my personal journey in my own writing voice that I hope may resonate with you and open a small door of wisdom towards deeper awareness. It has been immensely valuable for me and my hope is to show you the source of this information can be from a guy who will never wear Birkenstocks, does not burn incense and chant mantras all day, nor demand you move to India or go to temple to be enlightened. To the contrary, it is simply a new dimension that can be instilled into your daily life. Come back to your clear running stream often, dive in and take a look all the while purging the toxins we all create and returning to your pure, natural state. You can do this anytime and anywhere, simply by observing the thoughts of your mind in present moment awareness. It may just be the healthiest thing you do for yourself.