Welcome to the practice of spirituality. For thousands of years, it was believed that to get to the spiritual level of reality, the hallmark of which was the soul, you had to separate yourself from your body, separate yourself from your emotions and separate yourself from your mind. We missed the truth that was right in front of our noses. The truth is, there is nothing but the spiritual level of reality. There is nothing but soul. The spirit or soul manifests itself in the form of thoughts, it manifests itself in the form of emotions and it manifests itself as body. Therefore, the more in touch we become with our mind, emotions and body, the deeper we penetrate the spiritual. Your emotions, thoughts and physical structure must be integrated into your life if you wish to progress. But how many spiritual teachers have you listened to that have told you that you need to disconnect from these aspects of yourself to become enlightened or to feel good? The answer is way too many. And the aspect of embodiment that most of them seem to be the most concerned with separating from is the mind. Many of us on the spiritual path have taken spiritual bypassing to a whole new level. Not only are we trying to bypass negative thoughts; we are trying to bypass our mind entirely.
It is a spiritual truth that you are not your mind you are not your emotions and you are not body because you are more. And yet you are your mind, you are your emotions, you are your body because you have manifested as all of those things. And these things are not your enemies. Your mind is not an antagonist you were born with that is intent on keeping you away from enlightenment. Guess what? Your mind wants enlightenment and it wants to stop suffering just as bad as the rest of you does. It is actually helping you to do that in the only way that it knows how.
Just like a child, the mind is deeply knowing in some ways and is naïve in other ways. Ask a three year old to help you to clean up a mess. Chances are, as good as the child’s intentions are, they are going to smear the stain deeper into the carpet. They don’t know how to clean up the mess yet. Your mind is like that. Often the thing it thinks is helping you is actually hurting you. Your mind has learned how to operate from your parents. It only knows as much as they know about what works and what doesn’t work. That means that if your mother thought (even on a subconscious level) that worrying worked, your brain learned that worrying was the correct way to operate. And the thing is, a body can procreate, when the mind is still in a state of infancy or even completely unconscious. Your parents can give birth to you, even if their minds do not know the difference between a beneficial way to operate and a painful way to operate.
How many times have you heard statements like these: “Calm your mind”, “Your mind is like a monkey or a wild horse, it’s your job to tame it”, “Don’t listen to your mind”, “Don’t believe your mind”, “The mind is Mara”, “Your mind makes you lose touch with the present moment, don’t let it”, “Thoughts will only lead you in circles”, “Your thoughts are not your own.” “Your mind is your instrument, learn to be it’s master and not it’s slave”. “Your mind is not the real you”, “If you correct your mind, the rest of you will fall into place.” Your life is difficult because your mind is undisciplined”. “The biggest obstacles in our lives are the barriers our mind creates.” Etc. Basically there is a feeling among people, which trickles out into spiritual teachings, that the mind is somehow against us and against our progression and is deliberately hurting us. This belief causes us to treat our minds like the enemy. We develop extreme resistance to our own minds. This is torture because we cannot escape from our mind. It is like living with an enemy inside our own skin. We resist the mind to our own peril because instead of becoming whole, we split ourselves apart and and try to separate from that part of ourselves. We need to be very conscious of what causes us to have resistance to our own mind and gravitate towards practice that facilitates an embracing kind of harmonious union with our mind rather than a separation or divorce from our mind.
Your mind is not your enemy. It was created for a reason. The mind molds the energy in this universe into form. It takes what was potential energy and makes it become actuality. It molds the clay of this universe into form. It creates a world that you can perceive and also the faculties to perceive. The mind is the artist. The mind holds much of the responsibility for the creation of the you that you call by your name. Everything you love in this life, is a manifested thought. Therefore, everything you love about this life owes itself to mind.
I think it is sad that we feel collectively as a species like the only thing that is valid to nurture is a child. We can all somehow understand how a child needs to be loved and validated. But we cannot connect to the idea that an adult needs the same thing. But because we have this conceptual disconnect, I’m going to stick with our current understanding. I have talked about the concept that the emotional self is like a child, needing to be valued and held and nurtured. But we need to see that the mind is also like a child, needing to be valued and held and nurtured. The mind would not speak if it did not think it had something important to share with you. It wants you to hear it.
Instead of separating yourself from your mind, embrace your mind. It is self loving and it is the opposite of self abandonment, especially when your mind is causing you to feel pain. When your mind is doing something that causes you pain like worrying or focusing on painful beliefs, see this as the mind hurting. Do what you would do with a child that is hurting… Help it into a better feeling state.
You can do this in four straightforward steps.
- Become aware of what you are thinking about or paying attention to. Notice and name what it is that the mind is doing… Let’s call this step recognition.
- Care compassionately about what you are thinking and what your mind is doing by seeing it as valid and important, do not judge the thoughts you are thinking as right or wrong to be thinking. Seek to understand your own thoughts instead of to agree or disagree with them.
- Acknowledge and validate your thoughts. To acknowledge and validate your thoughts, you do not need to validate that the thoughts you have are correct, instead you need to let your mind know that it is an ok thing and a valid thing to have those thoughts. It is understandably WHY it would have those thoughts. For example, if your mind starts thinking of worst-case scenarios, you do not validate those thoughts by saying to your mind “you’re right those things are definitely going to happen”. You could validate your mind by saying “ I see that you are worrying, I can totally understand why you are thinking about the worst case scenario, because you want to be prepared.”
- After and only after your thoughts have been recognized and acknowledged and validated, help the mind in a loving way to focus on something that feels better to focus on. This is the point at which it is appropriate to use any techniques designed to steer thought or change thought or stop thought. I like to teach people to imagine their mind either in their head or in the space around them or above them and imagine enfolding their mind in a warm, loving light in the color of their choice, like a comforting embrace. This works especially good for people who worry or who feel like they are the victim of chronic negative thought.
We need to acknowledge the mind as valid and loved before it will be ready to move with us up the vibrational scale and into a thought space that feels better. You are not here to fix your mind any more than you are here to fix a child. You are here to love it and guide it. You are here to love and guide it into a state where it is integrated with you and is helping facilitate your happiness and purpose and expansion and progression here. Once you have compassionately acknowledged and validated your thoughts as valid to think and you are feeling like the mind would appreciate being helped into alignment, there are many techniques we could use. The first is to question the thoughts you are thinking. This is not the same as invalidating your thoughts. It is showing you that you do not have to be afraid of what you think. It is helping you to become constricted by the pain of the idea of truth. My favorite technique for doing this was actually created by Byron Katie. Her process is called “The work”. I highly suggest trying it as a tool for lovingly questioning your thoughts.
Meditation is a technique that works for stopping thought or guiding the mind. These meditations could be guided if you enjoy guided meditations more than solo meditations.
You could sit down and deliberately change your beliefs. For anyone interested in a process to change beliefs, I made a video on YouTube called “How to change a belief”. You can refer to that video for an idea about how to go about doing that.
You could use your mind like a tool to move your way up the vibrational scale by using the feeling of relief to guide you deliberately towards the better feeling thought and the better feeling thought. For example, if you’re sick, you could think of any thought that causes you to feel better about being sick.
You could take out your positive aspects journal and begin to write down anything that feels good to think about relative to any specific subject that is causing you pain. Or else you could write down positive aspects about the room you’re sitting in or the day you’re having. You could do a feel good scavenger hunt. To do this, you pretend you’re like a small child hunting for Easter eggs. But instead of finding Easter eggs, you’re looking for things that cause you to feel better when you look at them. So if I’m driving, I might say “I like the way the light reflects off the car”. “I like the fact that cars let us get places fast”. “I like the way the music sounds in the speakers”. “I like the color of the steering wheel”. “I like the feeling of humor in my body when I see the driver next to me picking his nose”. There are so many techniques designed to get your mind to work with you instead of against you that I could never list them all. The point of this process though is not to “deal with the mind” as if it is an unwanted burden or an antagonist that is getting in your way. It is to in fact give the mind something else to work with. Something that feels better to work with.
I want you to start to think of your mind as the sculptor of your life. It can only work with the energy you are feeding it; the same way that your body can only work with the food you are feeding it. Focusing on things that feel good to focus on, like beautiful things or things to appreciate or words of affirmation is like giving a sculptor pristine, warm clay to work with. Focusing on things that feel painful to focus on, like horror films or things to criticize or painful words is like giving a sculptor molded and cold clay to work with and shape. Obviously what that sculptor would create, would be much different than a sculptor who was given pristine, warm clay to work with. This is super important when we consider that this sculptor is molding your life.
Now that we have covered that, there is an idea that the only way to reach the present moment, is to separate from the mind. I disagree completely. The goal is not to become fractured or separated out to enter the present moment. The mind often will not enter the present moment because it is afraid of the present moment. It has experienced hurt in the present moment before. If you do what is needed to help the mind or to let the mind be less afraid of the present moment, the mind will naturally enter the present moment with the rest of you. Trying to force it to be present is like throwing a frightened child into deep water.
In tandem with that, there is also an idea that people cling to which is that it is possible to calm the mind. In the spiritual field and in the psychology field we say “Calm your mind” all the time. The problem is that it isn’t actually possible to force your mind to be calm. All you can do, is offer it things like love and offer it things like different things to focus on or different thoughts to think, which allows the mind to come to a state, which is calm. But for the sake of expansion, let’s all ask ourselves, what is so bad about a mind that isn’t calm? What if I told you that the mind’s most natural state is not a state of calm.
The state of calm is only one state of mind and all states of mind are created equal so the calm state of mind is no more or less valuable than any other state of mind. The calm state of mind is no more or less spiritual than any other state of mind. Ask yourself these questions, what was the purpose of the mind when it was first created? If the mind had an important and beneficial role to play in life itself, what role would mind play?
Calm by definition means nearly or completely motionless. But the mind is the artist. It is no more natural for the mind to always be calm than it is for the artist to always be motionless. Motion and lack of motion both play an important role in the perceiving or conceiving and expressing of art. Energy movement is the medium of the mind. When the mind is calm, the mind is in a state of perception and has allowed other aspects of you to lead, like your heart; this is not a bad thing, it is a great thing. When the mind is calm, you can perceive your eternal essence. When the mind is calm, you can enjoy all the benefits of motionlessness.
Movement and non-movement both have a place in this universe. They both play a very spiritual role. The key is being able to consciously decide when to be motionless and when to embrace movement. We need to stop worrying about making the mind be calm. We only worry about the mind being calm, when we feel like the mind’s movements are agitated by negative thoughts. But that is not about calm or not calm, it is about what the mind is focused on. It is about giving the mind different clay to mold. We only worry about the mind being calm when its movements prevent it from perceiving. Everyone’s mind is a little different artist. I like to compare different minds to different dog breeds. For example, one person might have a mind like a Springer Spaniel; it has lots of energy and is happiest when it has an outlet of expression. It is happiest with movement. One person might have a mind like a pug. It is playful but it has an easy time settling down. One person might have a mind like a Golden retriever. It is only active when it has a project to do, the rest of the time, it allows the heart to lead. You get what I mean. And to realize enlightenment, you do not have to have a mind like a golden retriever. We have to stop trying to get our minds to be the same and instead work with the mind we do have in the way that suits it best so it can help us with what we truly want it to help us with. For example, if someone who has a mind like a springer spaniel wants to help their mind to step out of the way and allow their heart to lead, moving meditation like tai chi may be the best idea because it allows the mind to focus on a task so the heart can step forward. If we have what we consider to be a hyperactive mind, we should never try to force our mind to be calm. Instead, we need to give our mind what it needs so that it can come to a resting state. And trust your mind to let you know what it needs. Have you ever considered asking it? Next time you want to have a calm mind, ask your mind “what do you need in order to become calm?” I had a client ask his mind this and the answer he received was to run. So, he let his mind run. He just let it go crazy, almost like letting the reigns go on a horse or the leash go on a dog and let it do and think whatever it wanted with fierce vengeance. He appreciated his mind in the process of doing this and watched it with loving amusement. And soon, the thoughts slowed, the mind stopped racing and jumping this way and that and he was able to slip into the calmness of a deep meditative state for the first time in 5 years of trying.
It is time that we stop making an enemy of our mind in our spiritual practice. We cannot become whole and we are not living in accordance with oneness when we try to get away from the mind to become spiritual. Integration needs to happen on the level of mind as well as every other level of ourselves, we can’t do that if we’re trying to distance ourselves from our mind or dis-identify with our mind. See and treat your mind like your ally instead. Develop ways to include it in your spiritual practice and use it as a tool to assist your spiritual development. Work with it, instead of against it because even when it has unintentionally hurt you, it has been trying to work with you instead of against you all along.