The mind is a tool to be used and directed according to one’s wishes.
An out of control mind, one that has become your master instead of your servant, is both an incredible waste of energy as well as being a potentially damaging and limiting influence on your life. A voice in your head that you are unable to control or channel into a meaningful direction is a form of insanity, but one that we have become so used to and accepting of that we no longer recognize as such.
The practice of mindfulness is the art of making ourselves well again through raising awareness of the thought process and regaining control over our minds and therefore our lives. Here are 3 straight forward steps to get you started:
1. Realize your thoughts are not ‘you’
There is a common misidentification of the self, or the real ‘you’, with the body and the mind. Certainly, these are faculties and tools that you possess, but they are not who you actually are. This can be seen practically by the fact that you are capable of observing your body and your thoughts from an almost external perspective: if you are them and they are you, who is doing the watching?
Thoughts arise from an unknown source, appear to persist for a time and then fade into a similarly mysterious realm. We do not know for certain where they happen, what they are and what their significance is. One thing we do know is that they are impermanent and can be watched in exactly the same way a slide show or a film can be viewed as it passes before us.
Detaching from thoughts and realizing it is possible to observe without becoming involved with them is the most important starting point in mindfulness. Thoughts happen to you, they are not who you are.
2. Commit to bringing all thoughts into conscious awareness
We are normally so busy with external actions and preoccupations that we spare little time or energy to watching our thoughts and seeing exactly what is going on with them. It is exactly this lack of attention and care that has allowed the mind to go from humble servant to megalomaniac master of our lives, so to remedy the situation it is essential we make a firm commitment to get to know our minds again on a daily basis.
One great method for doing this that you can try tomorrow is to simply resolve to not let one single thought happen without being intensely aware of it. This does not mean you cannot be externally active or be getting on with things, but simply that an equal amount of attention and focus must be directed inwards as well.
Crucially, this is not the same as judging, labeling or attempting to stop the thoughts, which will only create further conflict and internal chatter. One must just watch dispassionately and impersonally, simply noting what patterns and recurring thoughts are coming to the surface and letting them be as they are without seeking to change them.
3. Do not get drawn into the dialogue of thoughts
Anxiety, or the energetically draining background unease without a discernible cause, is incredibly common in our society. It is an insidious presence that saps energy, vitality and spontaneity and holds untold people back from achieving their true potential and dreams. This malady, as well as several others, is simply the result of being drawn into the endless maze of thoughts and uncertainties going on within oneself, and can be easily resolved by simply putting an end to this habit of listening to what the mind is saying.
Once steps 1 and 2 above have been mastered, you will have understood both that the mind is not you and also that it is possible to watch thoughts. It will then be seen that each unwanted thought is like a doorway opening up into a labyrinth of interconnected paths, dead ends and false floors, designed to lead you in so that you waste endless time and energy going round and round whilst not actually achieving anything tangible.
To avoid this happening, see the thought arise, observe the temptation to enter into and listen to it and then simply do nothing. Change the pattern. Do not believe what it is saying or go where it wants to lead you. You will see that is soon timidly subsides and is replaced by another thought, which is again powerless to draw you in unless you consent to it.
We are constantly choosing to let our minds lead us astray but do not accept responsibility for doing so. We complain that we are powerless to stop it, but in reality all we have to do is withdraw our cooperation from the process and it will cease on its own. Every time a thought arises and tempts you to become drawn into its dialogue, simply take a breath, detach and exercise your power to not do so.
Implement these 3 simple steps into your everyday experience and watch for the incredible change in your energy level, productivity and overall vitality and joy. Begin it now!
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