Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Mind, Friend or Foe?

"People think that the way you make a change is that you wait for it to feel natural or easy. But transformation comes from being willing to be uncomfortable or uncertain. You have to dive right into not knowing. It's hard at first, but the process gets easier over time." ~ Kelly McGonigal


So, to continue from my last post, but kind of in a different direction, the above paragraph I just came across today hit me hard because there's a lot of change going on around me and in me right now. It's not all bad, but it's not all easy either. And it IS pretty damn uncomfortable. Being a woman who has always focused on being "in control," I've realized I haven't been in control of much of anything. My MIND has been controlling ME. And the truth is, while it is a vital part of my existence, it's become the main thing driving my ship. Which means, I'm either constantly living in the past or constantly dreading/anticipating the future. I'm rarely in the present. 


I had a post not long ago describing my "creative process" and in that post I talk about how when I'm "in the moment," I experience every possible detail, layer, emotion, scent, touch, sound, sight going on around me at once. And nothing else matters. My mind is working in harmony with the rest of me and I create as a result ... whether I create peace within or positively impact another, whether I create a poem or short story, perhaps a sketch ... something that impacts people in other ways. But those experiences often lead to positive things within and without.


I just never knew how to sustain that state of being beyond those temporary moments until now. I'd always end up defaulting to my mind, to anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction ... to the past or the future and no longer in the present.


"See if you can catch yourself complaining in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness." ~ Eckhart Tolle


Madness ... that hit.


I think most of us do this at some point or another. Because we identify ourselves so deeply with our minds and not much else, we just tend to live in the past and future. And so, that creates a state of dissatisfaction ... we all know the notion, of always wanting more. Oh, he's doing this with his life, I should be doing that to. Oh, she's got this going on, I want that, too. I'm not good enough, I'm not where I should be, etc. and so on.


Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist, yoga teacher and longtime meditator wrote an article about this same exact concept of "present awareness." She talks about how neuroscientists have found that everyone has a "default state that the brain shifts into when we are not fully immersed in an activity."


This state is constantly thinking about the past or future, making judgments and categorizing and comparing things. It makes our brain a "suffering machine." And our minds (aka egos) thrive off that. I mean, think about it, if you force yourself to be IN the present, whether by "watching" what your mind is thinking about without judging it (I've noticed when I do this, my mind immediately stops and any anxiety I was feeling is gone) or by just forcing yourself to be fully in the moment (focusing on details, your breath, the smell of the air, the sounds around you, etc.), your mind is no longer "in control." This has been my issue most of my life ... this constant dread feeling or sadness from the past. It really is exhausting. 


So, Kelly mentions these mindfulness practices, like yoga and meditation, can take us temporarily out of that default state and into this present experiencing state. And the more you do this and monitor your mind as though it is some separate from you, the more you gain control over it and find more balance. 


What I liked about Eckhart's quote is the idea that when we express discontent or complain, we make ourselves victims. And either we can do something to change our current circumstances (or at least try to) or we can fully accept them, but either way, some action is better than none. I've noticed that when I start slipping into a funk and counteract that state with something productive or something I CAN control to change things or work toward changing things, I feel better ... more at peace. I think focusing on what you can do in the present moment to alleviate that dissatisfaction is key ... because you're focusing on the now and everything else will happen as it happens.


So, to sum things up ... I've basically realized that everything I've been reading for the last several years, quotes about living in the now, have FINALLY clicked. Guess I just needed something to bring it all together ... and it's crazy how it just kind of happens. All these pieces around me are finally clicking.


Because it's true, our lives are happening at this moment ... there is no future day when we're all of a sudden going to start "living." It's all right now and by taking it in as it ebbs and flows, we are being present.


Sure, this is all FAR easier said than done. And I'm still learning, messing up, reining it back in ... but that's all part of the present, too. It's not about success and failure (those are mental perspectives). It's about giving all I've got in each moment ... that's all the success I need.


Till next time ...



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