I regularly talk to people these days, who say that their mind is constantly busy; busy either re-living the past or worrying about the future.
When I go on to talk with them, they also feel that, as a result, they’re lacking the ability to be present, despite yearning for it. Present (in the mind) with their family, their friends, their colleagues. Getting frustrated and stressed because the lack of being present means that they’re missing life moment to moment.
There have been times when I was in this situation pretty much all of the time. When it was really bad, it was sometimes 24h a days (literally - because I wasn’t sleeping). I was spending all my time thinking about the things I had to do at work rather than enjoying the time with my friends and family.
This reminds me how much of a lonely place the mind can be. Even when we have the most loving family and the biggest group of friends we can still feel like we’re alone, blocked in by our thoughts. Never daring to tell anyone for fear of not being understood, for fear of being judged. When, in many cases, we would find that if we did talk to one another, then others would open up too - because many of the people around us are probably having the same experience - at least some of the time.
The dark thoughts are the ones that are most troubling. They can sometimes be all consuming and the mind can trick us into believing that the thoughts we have and us / ourselves are one and the same. They’re not. The mind is tricky. It builds on layers and layers of stories and most people believe that if they think it, they are it. This is not the case. The only reality is the one we’re experiencing right now (a teaching in Buddhism).
If we let our minds run riot, it can influence how we interact with the world. It can influence the choices we make. It can influence the things we do.
The book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters is a really cool book that helped me understand how the different parts of our brain and mind work. That many of our thoughts triggered by our ‘monkey brain’ can sometimes be difficult to control.
But then I have found - as is talked about in the book ‘NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) at Work’ by Sue Knight - you can adopt very simple techniques that help us process our thoughts and thus influence how we interact with the world. It has helped me better understand how I think. This allows me to, in effect, re-programme my mind.
It can make us a master of mind management. Sounds weird, but I can assure it is possible.
Mediation can also help train the mind to help you separate you from your thoughts. Like observing your thoughts on a big screen; like in ‘Minority Report’ with Tom Cruise. Then choosing which ones you want to interact with and acknowledging, but then pushing aside, those ones you don’t want to engage with. Sound simple? It is. It just takes a bit of practice and commitment of 10 - 15 mins a day. Thoughts are just that, not reality.
Whichever works for you, the important thing to consider and feel confident in is that you can change how you think; to train yourself to be more present; and so not be consumed by your thoughts - especially if they’re darker and more negative ones.
The amazement of life is always right there, right in front you. Your future is what you make it with the choices you make right now. Aim to be present. You only get to the top of a mountain step by step. Life is the same.
Think about that. Now who’s in control?