Have you ever noticed that your mind is talking all day long? And, rather than being focused on life, your attention follows your thoughts wherever they go?
When you step back and watch your thoughts, you realize that your mind is a storyteller, “liking” this, “not liking” that, wanting what it doesn’t have, and not wanting what it does have.
All of this “scribbling” that goes on in your mind is just ideas about life rather than life itself.
Here’s how to break that habit:
Recognize That Your Mind Wants to Be In Control
You are made up of 3 layers. The top layer is the controlling layer: this is where you identify with whatever your mind is saying. On average, you have 65,000 thoughts a day, and most of them are repeats from the day before.
If a thought says “I am sad,” you think you are sad. If thought says, “I am mad,” you think you are mad. If you are like most people, you feel you have to be busy doing life and do it right (secretly believing you have never done it quite right enough).
Try this: feel the difference between saying, “I am so afraid” and “I see that you are in fear, and I see how scared you are.” This is the phenomenal power of human attention. When your attention and your immediate experience are not differentiated, it is difficult to untangle them and let go of your thoughts.
Discover the Phenomenal Power of Your Own Attention
As you grew up, you took on the beliefs that you are separate from life, life is not safe, and thus you have to control it. It is the part of you that thinks if you can just figure it out or if you can just do it right, everything will be okay.
Using your attention instead to be curious about what is actually happening right now is an extremely powerful healer. It doesn’t happen while you are trying to get the “good stuff” and it certainly doesn’t happen by trying to resist or change what life is offering. It happens when you discover how to be curious about life rather than always trying to control it.
Let’s say you are caught in rush hour traffic, and it takes you three hours to get home from work instead of the usual one hour. For most people, the mind gets upset and wants it to be different.
What would it be like if all of a sudden you start getting curious? You might ask yourself, “What is my mind doing right now?” Just noticing that your mind is stirred up is a blissful moment of not being caught in its world. It is also powerful if you can also notice what is going on in your body. It may feel like there is an elephant sitting on your chest, or there is a knot in your stomach, or your jaw is clenched, or your belly is constricted.
A moment of bringing your attention to your immediate experience (whether you are noticing the stories in your head or the tightening in your body) opens the possibility of your bound-up energy being able to move–and eventually it moves through you, leaving you open to life exactly as it is right now.
Get to Know Your Unacceptable Parts
You have been so used to having your attention pinned on changing, resisting or fixing that you can’t see that right outside of your struggling mind is a whole other world of newness, aliveness, intelligence and trust. When you discover this field that is always with you, you reconnect with the healing power of relaxing into life.
It is important to note that if you try to bring your attention to these places of struggle in order to make them go away, it may not work. But if you truly are interested in what you are experiencing, even for just a second, these types of moments accumulate and you come to the place where your reactions to life simply pass through you, leaving you present for the privilege of living this moment of your life.
Photo: Nickolai Kashirin, CC
Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor and awakening mentor in Kirkland, Washington. Mary’s latest book, What’s In the Way Is the Way, provides a revolutionary approach for healing fears, anxieties, shame, and confusion.