What differentiates the mind from everything else is its power to transform our experience of live events and situations. Our experience of life is in large measure determined by the level of mastery we exercise over our minds.
Through awareness and discipline we can control how we see the world, and in an instant change our perspective, if we so choose. Frightening isn’t it to realize that we have such powers ! In a very real sense the mind is the creator of our reality and ‘ can make a heaven out of hell and a hell out of heaven’.
The fundamental insight is that we are not our thoughts and emotions. What we feel is only what we feel and is not who we are. There is a tendency to believe that what comes to consciousness is real rather than just the same old mental constructs, based on past experience or conditioning, going round and round. What becomes real and what controls us is what we identify with and allow ourselves to become attached to.
So we have a choice but this does not involve resisting what arises in any way. Yes, we should ‘catch’ what arises (be aware) but then allow it to be
We will have all manner of thoughts but it is for us to monitor what is going through our heads and only adopt those thoughts that will bring us happiness and allow the others, until they pass. This is not about denying reality but about how we choose to see it and interpret it for our higher good.
The metaphor of the ‘clouds and the sky’ is often used to explain the difference between our minds and our thoughts. Clouds are like thoughts – they come into view, arise in all shapes and sizes but inevitably move on over the horizon after a while (if you don’t chase after them!). They are transient and therefore don’t need to be taken too seriously, but they may block the sun for a while. The sky is a metaphor for our minds – beautiful, permanent, vast, infinite, and empty. This emptiness is not nothing, however, it is full of potential and is the source of all creatively. So the bottom line is that we are much bigger than our thoughts and emotions. It could be said that what is referred to these days as ‘mindfulness’ is really about ’emptiness’ – emptying the mind of thoughts, emotions and concepts in order to connect with the essence of who we are.
So how do we become masters of our minds? The answer is a combination of presence, practice and patience.
Presence is about not attaching to thoughts/emotions from the past and fears/expectations for the future. It is about learning not to go back to places of suffering in your mind (or in reality) and avoiding mental links between the past and the future. Such continuity is an illusion – all power is in the present moment. Allow whatever ‘comes up’ but always return to the simplicity of the present moment, which is a quiet place, where there are no worries to ‘cloud’ our thinking.
If you have worries about something do something about the situation. If you can do nothing worrying is still pointless. This is all very subtle – we should not be averse to suffering, rather we should embrace it but without attaching to it as if it is part of who we are. Allowing is a way of saying that ‘ I don’t know’ and this is ok and a good starting point for peace and wisdom to arise. Some people describe themselves as ‘worriers’ as if it is a medical condition that cannot be changed ! Consider converting worry to a prayer and hand it over, then it becomes a problem shared and more easily ‘parked’ while you get on with the business of living. In the end by coping with adversity you will grow in confidence and in this way challenging experiences can be gifts in disguise.
Daily practice and discipline are essential to mastering the mind – it is a way of being. This involves conscious awareness of your thinking and patience with yourself, as you change the way you perceive and process your thoughts and emotions. Meditation helps greatly in getting into the ‘right frame of mind’ and you might even integrate meditation or journaling what arises (what some call the western form of meditation) into your daily routine.
Not only will you be happier when you practice mindfulness but life will be simpler and the choices you make will be better and more aligned to the real you.