You cannot suffer the past or the future because they do not exist. What you are suffering is your memory and your imagination. Isha Sadhguru
Mindfulness is the latest term being thrown around executive boardrooms with those who are trying to find the secret to stopping their incessant mind. The Mayo Clinic and other prestigious healthcare centers are finally tapping into its benefits. So what is mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness is a practice with the goal of teaching you to maintain a moment by moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and surroundings through a non judgemental lens. It is learning to observe and not allow an emotional reaction to things. It is jumping out of a life where you are on autopilot; driving to work, washing dishes, showering and other mundane activities and into a life of presence. It is transforming single tasking to being present and not allowing the recycling of thoughts and narratives that are keeping space in your brain.
So, in this article I am going to try to take a dive into you head and describe what is happening there, a tall order. My hope it that I can help you find the real you. Mindfulness is a technique to find yourself amidst the chaos of thinking and the mental dialogue that never stops. Have you noticed that your mind just talks and talks and talks? If it was a real person you would have had it by now and dumped it. It even argues with you: “I wonder if I should just sell my house and move?” “Why would you do that, everything you have ever loved is here?” “But I want a change, I am bored” “So leaving everything behind is going to make you happy?” “What about your family”, on and on and on, your mind is arguing with itself. These conversations never stop and they can, over time, play havoc with the ability to gain control over your life and usually lead to overwhelm. The only way to shut this down it to step away from the conversation and become an observer. I personally see my mind as a foreign entity that has taken up residence in my body.
When I hear the voice, I used to wonder, is that me talking to me? Who is doing all the talking in my head? If it isn’t me then who is really talking to me? I can test it to see if it is real by simply asking it to say “Hi !” It does. I then ask it to tell me what I should do, it does that too. So is that really my voice? Or an intruder? I have meticulously monitored at times the conversation that comes from my head and have come to the realization that mostly what it says is meaningless, a total waste of time and energy. I also now realize that life does not evolve from the thoughts in my head but instead by forces in the field of infinite possibility. For example, my mind cannot accomplish a solar eclipse or an earthquake. Life will continue to occur and my thoughts do not have any relevance to what is happening around me. The only thing my thoughts do are to make me feel positive or negative about something. So trusting the mind means that I am relying on something that focuses on things that it cannot control, incessantly trying to figure out stuff that is impossible to figure out. Not a reliable companion.
So is the conclusion here that the mind is the culprit for our problems? Now as much as I want to jump to yes, I feel it does have a purpose as a built in mechanism for trying to process fear. Usually the more vocal the mind, the more fear or anger is present. Think about the times that someone pisses you off, your mind will go over that scene for days, spinning and spinning a narrative to believe in and satisfy its appetite for logic when there is none. So it is a processor to some extent. But it rarely learns lessons as it sits and waits for the next drama to capitalize on.
The voice can also be like a sportscaster following you around, commenting on everything you see, giving its opinion, scaring you out of doing things, limiting you and pulling up the past and shoving it in your fact that you will fail again. But why do we need this constant commentary? We know what is happening. But the mind takes it a step further as it defines the experience by pulling in values and beliefs which disintegrate the truth. I smile when people preface everything with “in this difficult times, in the chaos we are living in… ” like we are special, we have collectively agreed we are a mess. I often think about cavemen and what they said ” these are the worst of times…..our lives are a mess because the rabbit population is down this year. Humans are always in the worst of times. The mind manipulates the reality around us and creates a convoluted expression of your reality. You then accommodate everything based on the external world that has been defined by your misguided perceptions which becomes who you are and now you and the mind are in bed together, literally, usually spinning until 2 o’clock in the morning. There you sit conjuring up misery. You have become the perceiver of the outside world not the inside world, and you have lost who you are.
So, what if you just fired the sportscaster and instead just observe what you perceive? It’s going to be hard since staying in one thought too long can be a lonely and vulnerable place without the incessant mind, I mean you have been listening to it for so long. It is like when you life coach dies, who do you turn to? Yet the only way out of insanity is to become an observer. By converting the mind into a partner for awakening instead of continuing to create a bleak reality that is the place to find hope. So to do this you must first realize that the voice will never be happy, it is programmed to see everything as one problem after the other. This logically means that all of our problems stem from the voice in our head. So technically, the only problems we have have been designed by the voice. Therefore, the way out is to watch your problems, not swim in your problems because you cannot fix problems when you are drowning in them. The reality check comes from within. Inside there is no battle. So maybe it is time to take a summer vacation from your mind, I mean really, how long do you want to hang out with a maniac? The mind can destroy your best day, like the day you become engaged, the most romantic moment with your spouse, a tender moment with a grandchild, it is a wrecking ball.
So to start, try to take a shower in peace. You will probably take note that you have been taking neurotic showers most of your life. Developing a mindfulness practice will require you getting to know the “friend” you have been hanging out with and coming to grips with the voice.
The best way I have found to get the upper hand is to personify the voice and identify its personality. Here is a great article about how I do that. I am especially fond of my diet coach from hell, here is what occurs:
I first get the message that I am hungry and hour after eating. You need a snack, you deserve it, you had a rough day today. I say, “no I am fine and I am trying to lose weight and be healthy” Aw come on, says the voice you can start tomorrow. Ever had that happen? Now why in the world would I want to hang out with that kind of person? Yet, I do and I actually respect that voice and take its advice. So why am I paying so much attention to it when by doing so I am being managed by a neurotic.
So, to break out of this patterning you need to disassociate from yourself. You would never in the real world listen to that crap. It is time to go cold turkey and build your will and realize that you are stronger than the voice in your head and start running the show. So when you are back in control you can get to know the real you. What will you find?
Am I a 5’7″ blue eyed 60 year old woman, or am I a New York banker financing oil field equipment in the middle east, am I a wife or am I a grandmother, who is that person that I see in the mirror? When I am able to step back from the voice, I can actually start to sense who I am. This is the place where I find my spirit and from there I can then change the way that my eyes see the world around me. From here I can seek the voice of God whom you can find in truth and where there is no more fear. I can them unravel my conditioning and embrace faith and the voice of a divine force which is a much more reliable source. In this place you are no one and no thing you are simply the being that is looking out at the outside world. An interesting practice is to place yourself in a meditation and allow yourself to be removed from everything around you. No material things, no external world, no family, no friends no nothing. Then ask yourself who are you now? Can you find the answer without the voice? This is where you find the ticket to a place of peace, harmony and quiet.