THE MIND: Reflections on the mind and suffering
I will be writing a series of posts in the next few weeks about the workings of the mind and its impact on our wellbeing.
In the traditions that teach us mindfulness, the mind is like a factory of thoughts. It just releases thought after thought after thoughts. Many of these thoughts are benign but others are hurtful and torturous.
There is something very illogical about how our own minds torture us. Should our mind be our best friend? Our best advocate? It should but in practice it seems to be our worst enemy.
The mind can be filled with thoughts of self-doubt, of self-loathing, of self-hatred even. It can spend a lot of time anticipating pain, rejection, failure, judgement. It can scare us to death with thoughts of horrible things that could happen (and most times don’t). It can dwell on the past and make us feel depressed and worthless.
There is also a part of the mind that is unknown to us: the contents of the unconscious. As we have travelled throughout our lives we have buried some memories and conclusions we have drawn about ourselves and the world in the unconscious.
Most of what informs how each of us interacts with our world and with others is found in our mind in the form of perceptions, interpretations, core beliefs, conclusions we have drawn, and so on. The problem is that we identify with these thoughts and beliefs. We have convinced ourselves that they are true and that they are the only way to view things.
Culltivating Mindfulness is a wonderful way to get to know our minds and to learn to gain mastery over our minds. Not to control our minds but to gain mastery. In other words, to feel at the wheel rather than at the mercy of our torturous thoughts. To learn to have more flexibility in the way we see things and how we interpret ourselves and the world.
Begin by sitting down in a wakeful, upright position and bring awareness to your breath. Then just follow the breath; the in-breath and the out-breath. And watch what happens with the mind. Each time you are no longer on the breath because the mind has wandered into thoughts, just note where your mind went, what was it thinking about, and then come back to the breath. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes.
This gives you an opportunity to begin to observe the habits of your mind.