Our minds are awesome things that give us powers that are completely unknown to the other life forms on this planet. At the same time, our minds pose considerable challenges for us, specifically in the ways they can distract us from experiencing wholeness, joy, or peace in the present moment.
As “The Power of Now” makes clear, the human mind tends to keep us pre-occupied with a dead past or a fearful future, instead of fully experiencing this present moment. Even though everything that has ever happened, or ever will happen, only happens in the here and now, we humans spend a great deal of our daily moments focused on the perceived importance of memories, which are basically images stored in the mind (not actual present-moment experiences). Certainly these memories have value as we progress through our lives, yet all to often, it seems that we focus the bulk of our attention on something that has already occurred, something that has come and gone, rather than focusing on the infinite potential of this moment right now.
Either we do this, or we let ourselves focus on anticipating things we do not want in the future. We feel anxiety or fear, as if that metaphorical lion will jump out from behind a bush at any second and pounce on us. On a primal level, it is as if we have decided that it is better to be wrong 9 times out of 10 about something bad happening–even if we are completely pre-occupied with survival and therefore unable to enjoy the present–than it would be to be right 9 times out of 10 about something good happening. Because after all, if we are wrong only one time, we could be dead!
Certainly the fear of being wrong about danger has its place. Yet having a total pre-occupation with dangers and fears can make it difficult to enjoy the present. And so, the mind’s machinery, designed as a helpful survival strategy in a time of prehistoric survival, has run amok in our modern existence.
The point is that our brilliant minds, left unchecked, can cause us to be completely overwhelmed by non-productive, unsatisfying thoughts. I first became aware of this personally many years ago when I woke up in my life and realized just how much I was making myself miserable. I wasn’t listening to myself. I wasn’t acting out of joy, or because I wanted to do things. I was trying to avoid failure, which I imagined was a fate worse than death! So I bent over backwards to excel in an academic environment where I felt completely out of place and personally unsatisfied. I was motivated by avoiding failure, rather than seeking my own success. When I finally awoke from this, I realized that I needed to start taking care of myself.
At around that time, I heard the phrase, “The mind is a dangerous place to go alone.” And oh how true this is! I realized that I needed to seek out a new way of handling living. I needed to speak up, open up, and seek out knowledge and wisdom about life. Thus my Happiness Obsession was born.
This blog has been a great way for me to articulate the process that consciously began in me all those years ago. It has given me many helpful tools that I use daily in my own happiness. And yet, I am no less susceptible to the tricks of the mind. Even today, I found myself falling under its spell, as some ancient program of self-judgment had its way with me for several painful hours. It took several more hours of writing and clearing up my thoughts to arrive at the clarity to write this blog post.
Yet I am patient with myself. More than ever. I get my humanity, I forgive my foibles, and I am optimistic about the power of my thoughts to do myself good. Because, just as the mind may pull a fast one on us and lead us down various rabbit holes of struggle or unhappiness, we may use it to perform incredible feats of insight. We can use our minds for good! I have found that it takes persistence, patience, and commitment sometimes, yet it is quite possible.
And then we shall know the incredible potential we have been given with these challenging, incredible minds of ours.