One of the most important things that you can learn to fully appreciate in your life, and the lives of other humans, is that our thoughts directly control our emotions: “I think, therefore I feel”.
Our thoughts are generated by our response to the “outside” world; but those thought responses to immediate experience are entirely conditioned by what we have learnt before. The most powerful conditionings to create specific thought patterns and responses in our minds, are those developed at a young age; particularly the messages that we acquire from those who nurture us. And naturally, the way they respond to their world and ourselves as children, is entirely conditioned by their experiences as children.
These conditioned thought patterns create our sense of “I”. We all struggle to understand that our sense of identity is simply a construction, not a real “me”, because it feels so real and immediate; the thoughts of “I, me and mine” roll on relentlessly and often seamlessly. We struggle also to notice that our “me” is constantly changing in response to events; although considerably constrained by life’s previous experiences/thought patterns.
If “I” am not my thought patterns; then who am I?
Who, as the Zen Buddhists say, ‘was I before I was born?’ And how can we find this “real me”?
Learning to concentrate on one point of focus is one of the key ways to begin to discover that “real me”; that ‘one’ who simply perceives without judgement –without thought, and who delights in everything. Because our mind can only think of one thing at a time (it may appear not to be so, but it is true), the mechanics of improving mind focus mean we are progressively limiting the capacity of our mind to chase after itself. Meditation and mindfulness techniques are the most effective mechanisms to develop that focus. Its a bit like going to a gym for the mind instead of a gym for the rest of the body; it takes take time for the “mind muscles” to develop.
Those of us who have experienced trauma in our childhoods will have greater difficulty getting to a focussed state, so greater patience and discipline and “stick-ability” is required in those circumstances. Nevertheless, we can all achieve, over time, some measure of focus and tranquility, and for a few of us, may obtain a sublime glimpse, and sometimes more than just a glimpse, of who we really are.
For those of us who experience ongoing distressing powerful emotions as a result of past experiences, distraction of thoughts through focussed activity (eg even little things like making a cup of tea with attention or deciding whether you will have jam or honey on your toast, can be powerful tools. Understanding too, that it is simply your recurrent thoughts that create this distress for you is, in itself, a powerful tool to recovery. Understanding too, that we all do the best we can with the tools we have available to us at the time , is also a reassurance in such times of distress.
The mind’s constant strivings for more; for a plan for the future, a bucket list, the struggle to make good the realisation of that dream of what we always wanted to be or have, are simply empty manufacturings of past conditionings. They are real, in as far as the mind meanderings are real, but empty; they are constructions.
Acceptance and even resignation to this life we live here and now can bring immense peace of mind, whilst acknowledging that we have work to do to quieten the mind’s relentless meanderings..
You don’t need to buy this or that programme or pay for expensive meditation or mindfulness classes; but practising with others can be powerfully supportive. There are many different ways to meditate, but they basically use the same tool of mind focus.
You will make this world a better place through your greater mindfulness.
changethatmind © 2015