It’s Not The Content of Your Mind But The Quality
That determines your experience.
One of the things that I notice in the New-Age Spiritual movement is the focus on positive affirmations. On the necessity of letting go of limiting beliefs by identifying the negative thought patterns that are running through our heads. Once identified you are supposed to be able to let them go or rewire them by repeating to yourself the exact opposite on a continuous basis.
Now, I’ve tried this many times myself. And sometimes it worked and other times it left me just frustrated.
I remember the time that I was really afraid of driving (due to a near-accident when I was a young teen). I literally had diarrhea every time I was getting in the car to drive somewhere. Heart pounding and sweating, it was a full on anxiety attack. Each effing time.
Needless to say, it was annoying and exhausting. So I decided to push through it and I put my Inner Warrior on: I drove down the highway, white-knuckling that steering wheel and the mantra ‘I’m safe and protected’ continuously on my lips. Sounds ridiculous now, but it worked. Eventually, I gained enough experience of nothing happening to me so that my nervous system was able to finally relax. (I’m a super confident driver now and quite proud of myself for it too, thank you very much.)
So in that circumstance, it was really helpful. But as I’m growing up in the age of mass social media consumption like everyone else, what I’ve found is that the internal dissatisfaction that so many of us experience on a daily basis doesn’t come from the outside world. It doesn’t come from not having this or not being able to do that.
And it doesn’t work to tell myself that ‘I am happy and grateful’ when after a day’s work in front of the computer (and I really don’t like sitting in front of computers) I feel quite frankly like a piece of poo. I feel unfocused, depleted, disconnected and flat. And my mind doesn’t even muster the strength to put a coherent thought together, let alone decipher what it is that I’m feeling.
It also doesn’t work, if, after hours of browsing on Facebook watching everyone else do amazing things and starting to feel not good about myself, I tell myself that I AM good enough.
Ok, let’s be honest. It does work a little bit. I mean, it’s definitely better to be able to choose my thoughts than listen to the confused mothertrucker inside and feel powerless.
Still, it doesn’t catapult me straight up into my bliss state. And often what happens is that if the energy is really ‘full and stuck’, those affirmations seem to work as a lid on top of a boiling kettle ready to explode. Instead of providing a sense of relief, they can serve to suppress what it is that I’m feeling in the moment, creating even more pressure inside and making it harder to hold it all together.
So what does work, you ask?
Before I answer that with the simple word ‘meditation’, I want to clarify, that I’ve had days on the computer from which I got up and I felt great. I felt excited, inspired and clear.
So clearly, again, it’s not the computer’s fault of how I feel. It’s HOW I use my mind while I’m engaged in mental work. Those days that I liked working on the computer, I had a clear intention and I was very focused. And I took many breaks making sure I didn’t forget about my body.
What I learned through meditation (and it struck me as unbelievable that not many people are talking about it), is that it’s your ability to concentrate that brings about a sense of peace in your being.
Concentration equals serenity.
Likewise, the opposite, restlessness equals dissatisfaction. Restlessness is the inability to be with yourself and with what is. Nowadays, we also call it ‘multi-tasking’. This scattered mind creates incoherent energy in the body that makes us feel more restless and more dissatisfied.
It’s so uncomfortable that to sit still as a beginner to meditation can drive you nearly crazy. But not to do it, just makes it worse. So we are literally in a pickle. And no amount of affirmations can take this discomfort away.
Now, if meditation feels like too much of a goal right now, I would suggest for you to notice how you scatter your mind and simply reduce that bit by bit. Your positive affirmations can be (as they do help to create some focus)
I’m going to do only one thing at the time. I’m going to check my phone only once an hour. I’m going to challenge myself to sit for one minute in stillness.
The sorry part is that, if you haven’t experienced stillness, it’s hard to convince this agitated mind of yours that it’s worth it.
But, hang on, I’m sure you actually have experienced it!
Remember, the last time you were in the mountains? Or at the sea? Watching this breathtaking sunset or valley beneath you? Or maybe when you played sports or went running? Or you had a fully intimate moment with your beloved by gazing into their eyes forever?
Those were the moments, I’m sure, you didn’t have your phone with you. I’m sure you stood there with a mix of awe and nostalgia, that you couldn’t rest there at peace always. Your mind thinking to itself, ‘I wish this moment would never end’.
And then it does and we are in a pickle again. So it’s our task to take these moments as inspiration for how it is possible to feel, rather than to feel sad about losing them over and over again.
And it helps to understand that it wasn’t actually the outside world (even though the beauty and the purity of nature certainly helps) that propelled us into the feeling we had. It was the absence of our self, more precisely the absence of our restless mind and the presence of full-absorption into the moment, that brought our hearts to a sense of ease.
Once the quality of our mind is mastered, it can produce this state of being everywhere. Even in front of the computer. So start observing and be honest with yourself and then slowly slowly make little changes. It’s worth it.
PS: There are other qualities of the mind that are important to our well-being but I will write about that at another time.
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