The mind is often busy focusing on one concern or another. Sometimes you might be dealing with remorse about the past, and other times you might be worrying about the future. In addition, you can have thoughts of regret, resentment, and feelings of insecurity which can all be part of your mental activities. Not to mention some of your painful memories from the past or dreams about the future. Sometimes your mind, like a chatter box, can involve critical inner dialogues which can lessen your enjoyment of life. All these are part of your mental process. It makes sense to learn how to stop listening to the chatter box, and grow beyond your ordinary mental activities.
Payam Ghassemlou, MFT, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist (marriage and family therapist) in private practice in West Hollywood, California.
Editor: Talha Khalid
Worrying and ruminating about real or perceived life problems is common because scientific research on the human brain shows that it is constantly scanning the environment for threats to physical and emotional safety. Also, the brain gives shorter notice to positive experiences, usually only two to three seconds before moving on to the next thought. The negativity bias of the brain coupled with rumination about our problems can lead to anxiety, depression, and an overall pessimistic view of life. Fortunately, this is not a hopeless situation because 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 grow beyond identifying with the activities of your mind, you can reach a loving open field. In this free space, you are not your thoughts, your intense emotions, and your memories, and yet you are mindfully aware of them. You can mindfully observe your inner dialogue and issues that go through your mind and yet you are not 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. Everyone is unique. Everyone needs to discover their own path to enlightenment or personal growth. In this brief article, I attempt to offer what I have learned from Sufi poets and teachers, mindfulness practices, and Jungian psychology when it comes to taming the busy mind. The goal is not stop thinking or feeling, but to choose which thoughts and emotions deserve our attention. We can develop a new consciousness of being watchful of our mental activities and decide whether to focus on something or letting it go.
Given we live in a world that focuses heavily on “I think, therefore I am,” as stated by Rene Descartes, it would be difficult to imagine going beyond our thinking and focus on being. It can be done because others have done it.
As a 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, TV, coffee table and few other things and at the same time you are aware of your presence in the room. You are aware that you are noticing all the furniture in the room and yet you are separate from them. You do not over identify with any object in your living room. You are not judging them, analyzing them or making story about them. You are completely detached and at the same time present. I like you to use the same concept as you witness your mind activities. You are looking at your thoughts and emotions going through your mind without judging them and over identifying with any of them. You do not define yourself by them. You are the one who is aware of them, and you can use your will power to choose how much attention you like to give anything going through your mind.
You can enrich this practice of witnessing your mind 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 focus on that. The tool that you have in this process is your focus. “Whatever you focus on, it becomes your reality.” In other words, “You energize anything that you give your attention to it.” So why not energize the love in your heart. You might not be able to stop your mind from producing thoughts, but you can fill the spaces between your thoughts with energy of love. The marriage between the heart and the mind can give birth to a new way of being.
To summarize, you 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. Instead, you can direct your attention to the love in your heart. You can do that one day at the time, and experience having a new consciousness in partnership with your heart. Welcome to a new way of Being.