A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my New Year’s resolution. If you read it, you know I want to better roll with whatever ‘is’ at each moment, seeing life as a play in consciousness. There’s an aspect of that plan that I left out that is sort of crucial to making it work. Maybe I touched on it? I can’t remember. But, we can just call this resolution number two or addendum to resolution number one, which ever suits your fancy.
Since taking up a meditation practice about 15 years ago, I learned to watch my mind. As most people who meditate discover, I learned that we’re not our thoughts or our mind. We are the silent, peaceful observer beyond thoughts and mind. Over time, I dropped my sitting meditation practice and instead watch my thoughts throughout the day and evening (more of constant mindfulness practice), not interacting with thoughts as much as possible. For many, this may beg the question ‘Why?’ In this blog post, I will attempt to tell you why and then get a little into the how.
The reason I bring this subject up now is because traditionally a lot of people feel more stress around the holidays. Well, you know, there is just so much more to get done, on top of our normal to-dos. Also, there’s extended periods of closeness with all kinds of personalities with all kinds of varied agendas. Rather than enjoying the holidays, so many people end up feeling overwhelmed and burnt out by the end of the season, ready to burn the tree and chunk the decorations for good. I want you to be able to enjoy life – no matter what is going on. Hopefully, this blog piece will help.
Why Get Beyond the Mind?
The reason for constantly watching the mind is you become the pattern interrupt. In other words, thoughts will race through your mind constantly as long as you are engaging with them, in essence, dogging you day and night. It may even keep you up at night. As you start to practice watching your thoughts, but not engaging with them, you’ll notice that the mind starts to quiet. I read an author who said it is like the mind will reach into the toy box and hold up a thought for you to play with. If you pass and let that thought just float on by, the mind will dig in the old toy box and hold up another with which you can play. But, if you choose to not engage with any that it holds up for you, then eventually it gives up (at least for a while, in my case). What you are in essence doing is training the mind to be quiet.
This may beg another question, “Why do we want a quiet mind?” The answer is simple. There is constant, true bliss there beyond the mind. When you get to that place of just being, you are your true authentic self and it is beyond words, amazing. You can be in this state of pure awareness anytime, anyplace – work or play. For instance, the other day my fiancé was out of town and I had been ‘practicing’ not having a constant conversation with myself throughout the day. By dinner time, I was in a state of pure awareness – in other words, no thoughts were flowing (and when a thought arose, it was disregarded). I went to dinner at a local joint, the Cotton Patch, by myself. It is a little place with home cooking, kind of like the Black Eyed Pea. The place is busy and chaotic with business, full of families with small children. It was a magical experience. In a state of pure awareness all thoughts of judgement are turned off. There’s no surly feeling when the rolls don’t show up or conversation in your head about how long the service is taking or thoughts about how the neighboring table should not be so loud. There is only constant bliss with all the wonderful activity – the banquet of experience that has been set out before you.
I noticed things I would have never noticed before. There was what looked to be a two-year-old that was waaaaaay across the restaurant. She kept popping up and down from behind her high-chair like a whack-a-mole. I realized she was playing peek-a-boo with me. I have to admit, had my mind been turned on, I would have never noticed her all the way across the room doing that (and what ashamed – just adorable). And, to my right this perfect Dennis-the-Menace look-alike had his angelic chin pointed to the ceiling as he dropped one perfect noodle at a time into his mouth. Everything seemed lit and lovable. It was like being inside an animated Norman Rockwell scene. I realized, I was in the same non self-conscious mode as these children, oblivious to worry or care, and it felt soooooo marvelous, enchanting really. Have you ever noticed a baby rushing gleefully, hands outstretched, tap, tap, tapping its little feet into a new building or room? It’s like that. Everything is bright, new, shiny and wonderful for them because there they are ‘just being’ in the midst of all of it. All of it is a new moment, a new experience just there for them. There is an energetic charge in that feeling of being in the amazing now-ness of the moment with absolutely no judgement turned on. The minute the mind and its judgement and its thoughts of future and past are turned on, we completely miss the beautiful show that the Infinite is playing out before us. We miss the bliss for which we came.
I hope this is making sense and that I’m making a good case for quieting the mind through mindfulness. There is nothing better on this planet than being in our natural state of pure awareness with the mind turned off.
How to Quiet the Mind
So, now we come to the ‘How?’ Just get in the habit of watching the mind. Start by not engaging with any ego thought that you know will make you feel bad – you know the he said, she said thoughts. We can’t control others, so thoughts in that regard are an utter waste of time. Any thought that wants to pull you into the past or future is also a waste of time and energy. They are taking you away from now. Be diligent in your practice and always try to watch the thoughts without engaging with them or acting on them. Just notice them and let them dissolve like sugar in water. The sages say to let go of all your desires and fears and that’s where bliss lives. I have to say, I was a little afraid of that and skeptical. I thought that would leave a huge void in my life. Additionally, being an entrepreneur, there are lots of things I want to do and create. But, you can do your work and everything you’ve always done, with just more instinct, gut intuitiveness, authentic creativeness and blissfulness. It’s only a matter of holding your expectations lightly, more flexibly.
I want to be clear though, I haven’t eliminated all my desires and fears yet. But, just having glimpses of how great life can be without mind chatter, and the emotional rollercoaster it spawns, gives me the impetus to take the practice further. If you begin to practice or have been practicing mindfulness, please share on this blog your results. Everyone will benefit greatly. Blessings!
Sandra M Bell
Author of “Lunchtime Joy Magnet”