Many of us live very mind-focused lives and in a society that has great faith in, and dependence on, our thoughts. But we are so much more than just our minds. We are sentient beings, inhabiting animal bodies, who have intuition and wisdom beyond thought. Our heart sends more signals to the brain than vice versa. The more I choose to live my life beyond my mind, the freer my life feels. It’s not about finding an ‘off-button’ on our thoughts and going about without them completely, at least not for me, it’s about finding approaches to our thoughts so that we can live beyond them.
I actually have a friend who seems to have that ability though, to shut down his thoughts. When he sits down to meditate, he describes it as if he presses the ‘off-button’, and then it’s quiet up there for as long as he has chosen to meditate. Is that even possible? Maybe for some, but most people I talk to have a different kind of thought activity, one that is always in service.
When I stopped waiting for it to be quiet up there, I became so much freer to live beyond my mind, regardless of what its are doing. I have a constant commentator in there, critiquing and reviewing and planning and, well, thinking a lot of things all the time. It’s perfectly ok, it can be allowed to continue. I am not my thoughts, I have them, so I can choose to put my focus on something else and let the commentator do its thing.
“Your mind is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”Robin Sharma
Our brain is a tool to experience this life, just like our body is. But we are the one who observes both mind and body, the one who is aware of all that without having to identify with it. Today, I choose to live my life guided by my intuition, instead of my fearful mind, and these are some of the tools I use to be able to do that.
This is often what we practice in meditation. Choosing to enter the role of observer and look at the thoughts with a little distance. Like the clouds moving in the sky, like the cars passing on the road. Sometimes I entertain myself by seeing my mind activity as a little old man walking around in there sweeping, carrying, moving and organizing my thoughts. He works hard and he does a good job but I’m not him, I’m the one watching.
If the thinking activity is extra busy one day, I sit down and empty. I just turn on the faucet and simply write down everything that comes. Some things are nonsense, some I actually need to act on, some trigger emotions that I need to feel. But when I empty for a few minutes, it usually gets a little quieter in there.
My body is my best “now tool”. Through the breath, through dance, contact with nature, movement or full attention on my senses, I get out of my brain and into the present. The only thing that is truly real.
Remembering that I’m not my thoughts or my mind has helped me a lot. I often say something like: “My brain is now saying this…” or “I have a thought that says…” By separating myself from the voice that is speaking, I am reminded that it is only one of many things that happening inside me all the time, it’s not the only reality.
Maybe you’ve heard of Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’? It is an amazing and simple tool to question the thoughts. With just four questions, so much can change:
Is it true?
Can I really know it’s true?
Who do I become when I believe this thought?
What would be possible for me without this thought?
I would highly recommend you to read more and try it out at www.thework.com
Reason and negotiate
My mind wants me well. It tries to protect me from danger. The only problem is that it’s a little overly anxious and thinks I’m going to die from most things. If I’m going to try something new, do something brave or go outside my comfort zone, I usually need to negotiate a bit with my mind, it can sound something like this:
“Okay, dear brain, I understand you’re panicking and thinking I’m going to get hurt now, but I’m actually just going to write a text/make a call/listen to my intuition/ask for what I need. Can we agree that I’ll test it out? Once or during a week or month? If it goes bad, we can always go back to your control, I promise. But if it goes well, maybe you’ll like it too. Do we have a deal?”
Love and compassion
It’s important to remember that the mind doesn’t wish us harm. It only seeks security and love and believes it will get there through intimidation and control. But when we can give it what it really needs, it has a tendency to calm down. “Beloved brain, I see how you struggle, and I am so grateful for you. I’m safe here, and I can hold you. Thank you for your work but you can rest now.”
After all, the brain is a body part that needs nourishment, rest and stimulation, just like the rest of the body. If I’ve eaten poorly, slept bad or haven’t activated it correctly for a while, I can count on it to be a little extra agitated. It’s okay, then I can be aware of it and give it what it needs to feel better again.
There are many more tools to relate to that amazing servant we often call the mind or thought activity. But what lies beyond? For me, it’s intuition, presence, experiences of life that I’m actually here for, with my whole self. The mind actually has a hard time understanding and taking in the most amazing things in life, but you know. You’re not your mind, you’re not your thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mind, it’s absolutely amazing. It helps me in so many ways every day and I wouldn’t want to experience life without it. But when it gets its proper role in my life, my life becomes so much bigger, freer and richer. Maybe it’s the same for you?