Your mind is usually busy focusing on one concern or another. Sometimes you might be dealing with remorse about the past, other times you might be worrying about the future. You can also be thinking thoughts of regret or resentment and having feelings of insecurity, all of which may be part of your mental activities. There are also painful memories and dreams about the future. Sometimes your mind becomes a chatter box, and your inner dialogue can lessen your enjoyment of life. It makes sense to learn how to stop listening to the chatter box.
Worrying about real or perceived problems is common. Scientific research on the human brain shows that it is constantly scanning the environment for threats to physical and emotional safety. The brain also spends less time on positive experiences (usually only two to three seconds) than on chatter coming from your inner critic. The negativity bias of the brain coupled with rumination about your problems can lead to anxiety, depression, and an generally pessimistic view of life.
Fortunately, your situation is not hopeless. You can learn to grow beyond the activity of the mind. As the Persian poet Rumi stated, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
When you stop identifying with the activities of your mind, you can reach a loving, open, free space where you are not your thoughts, your intense emotions, and your memories, even though you are mindfully aware of them. You can mindfully observe your inner dialogue and issues that go through your mind yet not feel trapped by them. In such an infinite space, you can experience life from a place of clarity where you don’t let your focus move toward unhealthy habits and behaviors. This loving, open field is not just another state of mind to get to. It is a way of being.
How can you reach a state of being that is beyond the activity of your mind? There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to personal growth. We are all unique. Everyone needs to discover their own path to enlightenment or personal growth. Sufi poets and teachers, mindfulness practices, and Jungian psychology teach us how to tame the busy mind. Our goal is not to stop thinking or feeling, but to choose which thoughts and emotions deserve our attention. We can develop a new consciousness. We can learn to be watchful of our mental activities and decide whether to focus on something or let it go.
Given that we live in a world that focuses heavily on “I think, therefore I am,” as stated by French philosopher René Descartes, it can be difficult to imagine going beyond our thinking and focusing on being. You can do it because others have done it.
To start, imagine you are sitting in your living room and noticing—without any judgments—all the objects in the room. For example, you notice the couch, the TV, the coffee table, and the rest of your furniture and accessories. At the same time you are aware of your presence in the room. You are aware that you are noticing the furniture, and yet you are separate from what you are noticing. You do not identify with the objects in your living room. You are not judging them, analyzing them or making stories about them. You are completely detached and, at the same time, present.
Use the same technique to witness your mind’s activities. You are looking at your thoughts and emotions, going through your mind without judging them and identifying with any of them. You do not define yourself by your thoughts. You are the one who is aware of them, and you can use your will power to choose how much attention to give to anything going through your mind.
You can enrich this practice of witnessing your mind’s activities by inviting your heart to participate in the process. Your heart is a place of connection to love, Divine Oneness, Higher Power, God, Universal Compassion, or anything comforting that feels true to you. You can activate the feeling of love in your heart by remembering a heartfelt experience and focusing on that. The tool that you have in this process is your focus. Whatever you focus on, it becomes your reality. You energize anything that you give your attention to it. Why not energize the love in your heart? You may not be able to stop your mind from producing thoughts, but you can fill the spaces between your thoughts with the energy of love. The marriage of the heart and the mind can give birth to a new way of being.
To summarize, notice your mind as if you are standing in a train station and watching each train of thoughts and/or emotions going by without getting on the train. Direct your attention to the love in your heart. You can do this one day at the time and experience having a new consciousness in partnership with your heart. Welcome to a new way of being.