Have you ever found yourself feeling fine one moment, and suddenly lousy the next? Has a rotten memory ever come up for no good reason, and made you feel bad the whole day? Have you ever wondered why you sometimes irrationally imagining how badly the future could turn out – and wish you could stop doing that?
Your Mind, Your Body & a Thing
A lot of us use a computer almost everyday. It helps us get things done, communicate with people and learn new things. It is a source of pleasure but also pain. But you know when a computer breaks down, you wouldn’t say that ‘you’ were broken.
You live in your body in every moment. It helps you get things done, communicate with people and learn new things. It is a source of pleasure but also pain. When your legs are sore, you sometimes say; ‘my legs are sore’ and sometimes ‘I’m sore’. Yet, who is this you who is feeling sore – is this you really sore?
You use your mind in every conscious and unconscious moment. It helps you get things done, communicate with people and learn new things. It is a source of pleasure but also pain. When your mind thinks and feels something, you don’t even hesitate, you say straight away ‘I am thinking this’ or ‘I am feeling that’. But who is this you who is doing this feeling and thinking – if it were really you doing that, could you have been able to step away and taken a look at what you were doing while you were doing it?
It’s easy to see things separate from ourselves as not-us. It’s more difficult to see our body as not-us, very difficult sometimes. And much more difficult to see our mind as not-us. But you are not the workings of your mind, you are so much more.
Who Are You Really?
What you really are, is consciousness/awareness. That consciousness/awareness is what allows you to witness the workings of your mind and take a few steps back to look at yourself, or what you ordinarily identify as ‘yourself’. But because our minds are so closely attached to our awarenesses, we easily mistake the workings of our minds as our own doings.
Without awareness, we mistake the random workings of this magnificent tool as our own doing. We get into all sorts of misery, when the mind pulls up a bad memory we suddenly lose our focus, when it makes up a negative movie on the spot of how things could go bad in the future we lose our positivity.
We forget that the mind is a tool, the same as the body is a tool. Instead of using our awareness to direct the inner engines of our mind, we allow the engines to run amok and drive us this way and that – sometimes even tugging us in opposite directions!
So how do you take control of your mind and retake the driver’s seat?
The good news is that there’s a way. The bad news is that it’s not easy and requires constant practice. We know that we can’t grow muscle just by reading about exercise. But because we identify ourselves with our minds, we think that when it knows something, we know something. Just like when you hear that you are really awareness, and not your mind.
But you only know it on an intellectual level, not on an experiential level.
There’s a Paupa New Guinea proverb that goes:
All knowledge is only a rumor until it’s in the muscle.
How Do You Take Back the Driver’s Seat?
So how do you train your awareness so it’s strong enough to be the director of your thoughts and the chooser of your emotions, instead of having your thoughts and your emotions choose you?
Meditation is the method.
And no, you don’t have to go into the mountains with nothing but a toga to make meditation work for you (you don’t even have to go to a 10-day Noble Silence meditation retreat like I did!).
You just have to sit in silence, once everyday, for as long as you can. Just sit and focus on one thing: your breathing – nothing but your breathing. Whatever thoughts come up, just let them be, observe, do not act. Just be aware, just be.
Like exercise for the body, the more you train your awareness like this, the stronger your awareness will become.
In case you’re wondering, when your awareness becomes stronger, you’ll still feel frustrated, depressed or anxious at times. You’ll still find yourself having negative thoughts. A strong awareness doesn’t make you a neutral robot without feelings or opinions.
But it makes your ability to choose stronger. With awareness, you’re able to catch yourself in the patterns of negativity. And realizing you are not your negative feelings or thoughts, be able to step away from them and choose other feelings and thoughts, feelings and thoughts that empower you and make you happier instead.