For me, this has been no easy feat. Up until the spring of 1997, despite having mustered success in many areas of my life, when it came to my mind I mostly believed that what my mind told me was true. If I was afraid, it didn’t hesitate—up popped a list of the top ten things to fear. If I felt insecure, it gave me reasons for that, too. And in its spare time, when it wasn’t busy attending to the moment-to-moment needs, it tried to mastermind exactly how I was going to survive and get my needs met or navigate away from pain. Which was ironic, given what I came to find. I was a single mom, and like many of us had a lot on my plate. (I often felt like I had an extra helping.) And while I had done more than my share of personal development homework, my arsenal of self-help and psycho-spiritual revelations were lacking here; my mind and its constant machinations trumped everything!
Thanks to my body-centered self-inquiry practice, which I had been doing religiously for two years (prompted by equal parts pain and heartache), and new scientific evidence, I decided to look deeper (okay, I surrendered). In that place I saw how my mind was not actually the master I believed, that it was a servant after all. Understanding this truth was the next step I needed to help me create the life my heart truly desired. I discovered that my health, happiness, prosperity, peace of mind, and basically my relationship to everything depended on it!
Until this point I had no idea I had as much “control” of what went into and on in my mind as I did, which naturally made me wonder, what else was going on up there beneath my awareness? I wish I could say the answer to that was tidy and straightforward. It wasn’t. It was a double feature; “Opening Pandora’s Box” plus “Clash of the Titans.” My mind was used to certain patterns and ways of being that it was familiar with, that were comfortable—hell, they were survival-based! And now, not only were they being examined, but threatened with extinction. Let’s just say it was a mess for a while until I got things sorted out. Kinda like a hostile takeover but with really great intentions!
Now everything that I had believed up until that point was suspect. My inventory list was long, yet thankfully fell into two categories; does this thinking serve me or not? Now I could tell the difference between the automatic beliefs and patterns that just rolled on a continuous and unexamined loop, and the present I who was able to inquire, examine, and choose. This understanding almost immediately changed the overall quality of my life; many things got better right away, in some areas almost overnight. My practice now included the statement, “Just because my mind tells me something doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Fear, something that I had felt victim of, was now a thought to be examined. (I’m not talking about being confronted with a saber-tooth tiger—and anyway, how often does that happen?) The questions arose, “Is this really happening? Am I really in danger? What is at risk? What are my choices?” I learned to sit quietly and follow Essential Truths 1 and/or 2. If my mind told me I was being judged, I used the same process, except it may have taken me a bit longer to figure out what I was feeling, which then stimulated the thought (Essential Truths 1 AND 2).
How can you use this insight? Everything and anything you think is now up for evaluation. Then there are the more subtle thoughts that are disguised by subtle feelings, or that whiz by and don’t want to be exposed. You can use Essential Truths 1 and 2 and maybe 3 too. Maybe you’ve had too much caffeine or not enough rest, in which case your thoughts should be highly suspect when making important decisions. Then there is the popular matter of self-talk. Again, same process works. Is what you just heard actually real? Inquire, then choose.
Last but in no way least are a few other items like practice and time. Replacing entrenched thoughts is like playing a Whac-A-Mole game; it just takes time for this tide to turn. Don’t worry—if you really want it, practice, and are diligent you will get the hang of it in those tougher areas. Don’t give up! And then check out your TV-watching, your reading materials, and the people you hang out with and the litter their minds potentially create. My awareness of those things developed out of first attending to my most debilitating mental activity and chatter. Then I starting paying even more attention to what I was actually putting in my mind, never mind what had already been programmed in there or that I was unconsciously perpetuating. Maybe you just need a tuneup, a reminder, or have one area or another that needs particular attention. Whatever your situation, I hope I have made a case for how putting only good things in your mind can help!
It certainly has for me and the friends and clients I know who practice it!