Your mind is a supercomputer with enormous potential.
It can be used to solve incredibly complex problems, create stunning pieces of art, or write captivating poetry. Through our minds we're able to channel creativity from the depths of our being into remarkable feats of art and science that ultimately, well, blow our minds.
But if we're honest with ourselves, we know that most of the time this isn't what our minds are doing. In fact, it's usually the opposite. Our minds tend to nag us all day. They never seem to shut up, about anything.
I don't want to get out of bed. 5 more minutes.
Why is it hot out? I don't like the heat.
Did she see me? Why didn't she say hi?
What's his problem? How dare he speak to me like that!
What am I doing tonight? I don't want to work out later, but I have to!
Hmm, what's in the fridge, I'm hungry. But I just ate!
I deserve a cookie. But I shouldn't! But I will!
That's not a double-edged sword! It's two swords!
Does this sound anything like your mind? How is it that a tool so smart that it can build spaceships and split atoms, simultaneously be so stupid that it finds a problem with every little thing we do, or don't do? What can we learn from our relationship to our minds?
In order to answer these questions, we must first understand that we are not our minds, but rather the ones who experience our minds.
You are the one who has a mind. After all, it's your mind, right? Furthermore, your mind has a specific way of working. While the contents of your mind will most certainly be different than the contents of my mind, the structure and way in which they operate are very much the same.
Each of us is intimately familiar with what our own minds have to say and how they tend to manifest our inner voice, but few of us know why they do this.
Your mind is using you
The reason most of us struggle with life is because our minds never shut up, and we never stop believing what they say. Those suffering anxiety believe their intrusive fearful thoughts. Those battling depression are convinced their thoughts of sadness and worthlessness are true.
In fact, the severity of anxiety, depression, and even mental illness, is directly related to the degree in which we believe our thoughts. Some people with extreme forms of mental illness are so convinced of the activity in their mind, that we call these beliefs hallucinations. Sadly, people who commit suicide do so because their minds told them to.
But why does the mind never shut up? Where do these thoughts come from? What is the source of that voice in the head?
Certain people collect things in life. My grandfather collects cereal boxes. You may know someone who collects stamps. Maybe your mom collects shoes. But there's one thing we all collect - and that's bad experiences. From a very young age, we go through life and naturally have experiences - some are pleasant, some not so pleasant. Due to the nature of the not-so-pleasant experiences, we tend to push them away with our will. Because they're uncomfortable coming in, we don't want to experience them.
But when we push something away, it has to go somewhere. We can't just push an experience away once it happens and expect it to disappear into thin air. When we resist the moment unfolding in front of us, it gets stuck and leaves an impression of stored energy within ourselves. By the time we reach our twenties or thirties, we've collected thousands and thousands of bad experiences, leaving thousands and thousands of impressions of energy stored within.
Your nagging thoughts are simply the byproduct - the bubbles, if you will - of all your bad experiences. Your mind is constantly at constant odds with reality, because it's actually trying to protect you from the bad experiences you stored inside it.
Let's look at a concrete example. Let's say you're in line at a restaurant, and the person in front of you turns around abruptly to tell you to back off because you're too close. Caught off guard, you don't really know what to say, so you apologize and take a few steps back. But inside yourself, things aren't so comfortable. Your heart is racing, your mind is yelling back at them, and your body is shaking.
How dare they be so rude! I wasn't even that close! Don't they have any manners?!
At this moment, you have a choice. Get involved with all that energy inside yourself, or relax and let it go because there's nothing left to do with the situation. You've already apologized and taken a few steps back, so what else is there to do?
Five hours later, you still can't believe what happened. You replay the situation over and over, and you refuse to believe it. You've gotten so mentally and emotionally involved with your initial reaction, that instead of lasting 5 seconds when it happened, the event has lasted 5 hours.
You're familiar with this, right? It's not just in line at the restaurant. It's with every uncomfortable situation we encounter.
When discomfort arises, we learn from a very young age to resist it in order to protect our young, innocent psyches. But if you're reading this, there's nothing to protect anymore. We can handle these situations. We can handle anything life throws at us, no matter how difficult. And we handle it by fully experiencing it as it happens, and then letting it go once it's over.
You can learn to use your mind rather than it using you
A far more productive use of the mind is for us to actually use it.
If I tell you to think of a beach, you can tell your mind to conjure up an image of a beach, right? I don't even have to insert a picture of a beautiful beach here.
How about a math problem. If I ask you what 11 x 6 is, you go to your mind and you use it to make a computation. While these are very simple examples, they both involve you actively utilizing the functions of your mind.
This is what Einstein did when he theorized relativity. From a chair in his living room, he was able to conduct wild thought experiments that contributed to groundbreaking discoveries in science. Likewise, great artists get into a flow state and use their minds to produce breathtaking masterpieces.
Imagine if we were no longer slaves to our minds, and instead were the masters? Imagine how beautiful, creative, vibrant, and productive the world would be, if we always channeled love and compassion through our minds?
I will leave you with one final suggestion - do not feel responsible for your thoughts. Start watching them without getting involved. See how ridiculous they are. Now you know why. Now you know where the voice comes from. Now you know that voice is not you.
Live with substance!
Your mind is operating off of a very limited data set of mostly bad experiences that you stored over the course of your life. Do not feel responsible for your thoughts. Instead, watch them arise without getting involved.