WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU THINKING?
A PHILOSOPHICAL MIND HACK TO CALM THE F*** DOWN
If the big fella Buddha is in fact right when he said ‘what we think, we become’ then I guess this whole meditation & pursuit of ‘now’ malarky quite possibly has some merit to it.
If we’re to reclaim what’s going on in our noggin, or at best let that shit go, or possibly just as important, make friends with it – then we need some tools to be able to best access our thoughts – and ultimately unleash our beliefs. Because it’s here, in our beliefs, if I understand my recent lessons, is where we can bind ourselves to dogmatic, and fixed ways of thinking.
“The biggest obstacle to taking a bigger perspective on life
is that our emotions capture us and blind us.”
– Pema Chrödrön
In Taoism the saying goes along the lines of ‘as soon as you begin to believe in something, then you no longer see anything else.’ The truth you believe in and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new…in short, holding on to beliefs limits our experience of life.
For me this is profoundly important, as it applies to every facet of ourselves, how we behave, connect & interact.
So how’s does this apply to me, my health and wellbeing you may ask?
Firstly having ideas or beliefs or thoughts isn’t the problem – it’s the stubborn attitude of having to have things be a particular way (sound familiar?), it’s by clinging to our beliefs and thoughts that cause the problems.
The heartening news here is we all do it.
I’m going to take a not-so-wild stab in the dark here and say the most of you reading this are in the +40 age group…those of you that aren’t, I know who you are so keep reading.
So with that in mind, it seems to me, that as we age, and the decades roll by, we tend to collect baggage, or ‘armour’ is a probably better description – to protects us from both our inner-softness, our vulnerabilities, what we don’t like about ourselves, and from the suffering caused by what ‘that pain in the arse’(ex)husband, (ex)wife, parents, boyfriend, boss, injury, illness, addiction, compulsion, financial collapse, sacking etc ‘has done to us’ over this time.
All this ‘stuff’ takes its toll…and in our attempts to persevere & ‘survive life’ we layer (armour) ourselves with quite often contrary habits, behaviours, thinking blah blah blah in an effort to remain comfortable & safe.
Decades of this habitual behaviour not only adds up and wears us down, but because we’ve been doing it for decades, we’re ignorant to that fact that some our most destructive habits and thinking seem completely valid to us…we believe them.
So in an attempt to keep this to a 5 minute read…what can we start practicing so we can begin to reconfigure our thinking, so it plays a lessor role in keeping us fixed & biased, and potentially open us up to change – change that benefits our wellbeing & nowbeing? (<—just made that one up, me likey)?
The Buddhist/Stoic/Zen/*Jedi Mind Hack is…’Think of Thinking as “Thinking”.
[*Star Wars is basically ‘Space Buddhism’. George Lucas, no relation, said the plot and characters of Star Wars was inspired by the 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress by Akira Kurosawa. Lucas made wide use of religious and mythological elements, in his search for a new spiritual and moral guidance for a young audience. In this process, Lucas also adopts Buddhist symbols, values, and ideas in his concept of the order of the Jedi and their spirituality. These include sitting meditation, mindfulness, compassion, interdependence, or the overcoming of attachment.]
In these populist, faux-news, social media driven times it’s almost demanded of us that we have an opinion on everything. Without wanting to sound all “conspiracy-like”, I think it’s safe to say, and common knowledge, that our very own news feeds are A.I. manipulated to deliver information that we want. We’re delivered news, and stuff to buy, by our search-engine habits, thoughts, opinions & beliefs.
Are We Human Foie Gras?
These days we’re almost bullied & corralled into not only taking a sides by this manipulated force-feeding, but to also sit behind our keyboard and espouse our beliefs & opinion (yes, I see the irony…but I do like the Foie Gras analogy)
This only further motivates us to label things right or wrong, or, good or bad…it motivates our biases, fears and distractions…and we become more entrenched in our beliefs.
And this is where things can get a tad polarising – because if someone doesn’t believe us, we can get insulted, annoyed and frustrated…like I said above, we’re all guilty of it
So how can we counter-act this deluge (good word ‘DELUUUUGE’…go on, say it) of not only distracting opinion, but also opinion that triggers us to remain with our fixed thinking & beliefs, and thus squander our ability to have a calmer mind?
And the sage advice from todays philosophical-sponsors is…label your thoughts ‘Thinking’
They (today’s philosophical-sponsors) say there are three qualities that we can nurture, cultivate, and bring out. We already possess these qualities, but they may be submerged by the DELUUUUGE, so, they’re available anytime we want to dig em up and ‘ripen’ them.
The three qualities are precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go.
Now these qualities can probably be best ‘ripened’ during meditation & quietude – but I don’t think I’d be incorrect in saying that we actually have opportunities all day and everyday to foster these innate attributes.
Remind ourselves to steal-opportunities throughout the day…don’t think you have time…just go check your smartphone usage…so
Put the phone down, or leave it home, more often.
Occupy more of our time doing the things we love, do sports and movements that light you up
Embrace the natural element, the outdoors, fresh air, sunshine, wind, rain…
These are only some of the self-imposed opportunities of self-kindness that propagates a settled mind, and sees our self-awareness flourish.
Meditation doesn’t just help you…it has the capacity to ‘shift you’.
If my novice understanding is correct, meditation not only makes us aware of our thoughts – but in some ways more importantly, we become much more aware that our thoughts go AWOL, all the time…like every other second. It’s only when you sit still, that you realise how much nonsense actually goes through your head…this can be intimidating and off-putting.
Apart from good posture and breathe technique, there’s three things that will help manifest mindfulness during meditation.
1. The ‘identification of our errant thoughts’.
2. Our ability to bring our minds back to our breath.
3. And the technique that when you realise that you’ve been thinking, you say to yourself, ‘Thinking’
Remind yourself to label your errant thoughts ‘Thinking’…even when you forget to, and suddenly you remember…label it ‘Thinking’.
Why use the label ‘Thinking’?
Because it’s so precise, it’s so on point…it’s all you have been doing. Nothing more or nothing less…just ‘thinking’.
It when we apply emotion to our thoughts, when we add our story, our narrative is when we continue down the worm-hole and start to experience both psychological and physiological responses to our ‘thinking’
Another step to emphasis here is to also be mindful how you say ‘thinking’ to yourself.
We can be inclined to ‘make’ meditation awfully challenging, and in the process we can become quite harsh on ourselves, especially if we make it too goal-orientated. This applies to virtually everything new and challenging…diet, exercise, sleep, alcohol intake etc
Remember: when you say ‘thinking’ say it gently, and with patience.
The object of meditation is to bring a sense of softness and gentleness – the tone of voice we use to ourselves during our meditation (and all day everyday where possible) is how we cultivate self-kindness.
It’s where we manifest patience, and reduce our propensity to not only throw opinions around, but how and if we should react by what we see and hear.
This approach also fosters discipline.
With improved discipline, we can apply more exertion/energy and practice more.
The more you practice, and the more you ‘apply’ the non-judgemental word ‘thinking’ to your thoughts, the greater your ability will be in the ‘real-world’ – when you’re sitting in traffic, in a queue, dealing with a challenging client, off-spring or partner – to respond best to the situation you’re facing.
Applying ‘thinking’ practice to your thoughts will begin to relieve you of labelling situations as good or bad, or right or wrong.
When we reduce our need to emotionally-label things, our life lightens up…this is a massive gift we can afford ourselves -It’s a tool, when practiced offers huge rewards
Think of all those moments everyday, like agitating news feeds, annoying insufferable people etc…all these thoughts that can and do inflame our well-being, that ignite stress and actually have a detrimental physiological and psychological impact on you.
We only need to audit our thoughts in our day to day, to start seeing where we’re emotionally labelling our thoughts. And most of it is stuff we’re ‘cognitively-commentating on’ we have no control over, and most likely doesn’t even matter…like…
Your barister who doesn’t heat your milk to your exact liking…I said 63.2 degrees!! (it happens)
Someone we don’t even know talking or behaving like a goose (foie gras?)
Someone gives you ‘a look’.
Or, my all time favourite…when your courteous to someone, like you open the door for them, or let someone merge into your traffic lane, and that person doesn’t say or gesture you a thank you….well fuckyou very much! #gold
The ROI on deliberately-practicing some form of meditation, on a daily basis, is reliant on one thing.
And that is doing it everyday, that may sound like a huge commitment, but it’s not…resist over thinking it, resist the deluuuuuuuge…because:
1. Meditation can be done anywhere – sitting quietly at home, sitting on surf board on the ocean, playing your guitar, going for a walk, gardening, sitting in your car at traffic, walking to a meeting…focus on your breath
2. Meditation can be done for any length of time, from a couple of seconds to a hour or more…just focus on your breath
3. Meditation can be done at anytime during the day…just focus on your breath
4. Meditate before you fall asleep...just focus on your breath
5. Meditate while your refuelling the car, vacuuming, doing the dishes, hanging out the laundry, mowing the lawn…just focus on your breath.
….and say ‘thinking’ when you catch those reoccurring errant thoughts.
If You Can Breathe, You Can Meditate
How to implement a daily practice is three-fold, it’s simple…but ‘simplicity’ is where we largely fail every time when starting something new.
1. Remind yourself to do it – make time, diarise it, used reminders on your device, use strategically placed post-it note…use whatever reminder tools that work for you
2. Identify and begin limiting or curbing the habits and behaviours that will distract you from doing it. Make the effort to make-practice as seamless and as easy as possible. Alcohol consumption, poor sleep, hyper device usage, late nights, over-consumption yada yada yada do nothing, and I mean nothing to help you pursue and practice new stuff.
3. Patience, patience, patience….
As pre-Socratic philosophic heavy-hitter Heraclitus said “To be even-minded is the greatest virtue.”
We don’t think twice about polluting our minds with stimulus that perpetuates a troubled, distracted mind – yet when it comes to the idea of engaging in activities to fostering steadfastness and even-mindedness we can be less forthcoming.
My own novice endeavours in this practice has seen a dramatic upturn in my outlook and even-mindedness.
Even though I catch myself everyday where I could of done things a little differently – I’m actually more turned on that I noticed it, rather than the action itself
Less taking things personally
Improved self-control & self discipline
More focus/less distracted
And being a lot F****** calmer.
[total read time 8min.53.62 seconds Mr Barista]
The path is the goal.