“In fact, the spiritual process isn’t any different before awakening than afterward. It’s just that, after awakening, the process is happening from a different perspective; you may think of it as a bird’s-eye view versus a ground-level view.” – Adyashanti The End of Your World
To get closer to ourselves is the name of the game here, folks. And to do this, we have to start by becoming aware of our lives on a minute to minute, second by second, basis. This is essentially the most critical step of this series. Without incorporating a form of a daily mindfulness practice––THIS DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO MEDITATE (but it wouldn’t hurt) ––these following weeks will be a pain in the ass to undertake.
“You can’t get out of a prison that you don’t know you’re in.” – JP Sears
So, in my usual fashion, I want to try and break the brain.
The Two Minds
Our minds are pumping out thoughts––around 50k a day, give or take 10-20k to be exact––from the minute we wake up, until the very minute we slip from waking consciousness, into the dream world. Lot of thoughts, no?
If I asked you to consciously think of 60k thoughts throughout the day, you probably couldn’t do it. Or, you’d give up after the first 500 thoughts, if you even got that far. So if that’s the case, then how are we having close to 60k thoughts in a day? Well, I will fucking break it down for you.
Right now, I want you to close your eyes for 30 seconds and notice your thoughts. You don’t have to do anything other than watching them come and go. 30 seconds starts…now.
Ok, now for the next minute––like, actually use a timer for this one––I want you to close your eyes and only pay attention to your breath. This exercise isn’t for meditation purposes; there is an actual point. Don’t try to “clear your mind.” Focus on the inhale, follow the exhale, nothing else. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Easy? Easy. Ready, set, go.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that about 98% of you found your mind wandering. The best part is, it probably took you a while before you even realized that your attention left your breath. This is known as “being lost in thought;” we all know it. Or, even better, you totally forgot about your breathing and only snapped back into reality once the alarm went off. And now you have a smile on your face because that is exactly what went down. Magic.
Maybe for the first 15 seconds, you were honed in on your breath like a god damn Jedi master. But then it happened. You started to think about the person who cut you off earlier that day; or your most recent Tinder match; maybe you even found yourself thinking about what your 5th grade crush might be up too (I’ll never forget how you played me, Gabriella).
Three very important things happened in that minute that can radically change your life if it hasn’t already.
- You learned that my 5th grade crush was Gabriella and that she indeed, played me, hard.
- You realized that you’re not in control of your mind like you thought you were. Hopefully, you realized that you’re actually not the one who is calling the shots. If you were, then you would have been able to focus on your breathing for the full minute, right? Think about it, if in that minute you had a random of thought of how hungry you were and you immediately acted on that thought by going to grab some food, then that wasn’t you who deliberately had that thought, was it? You weren’t even hungry! You were just blindly following through on an arbitrary thought.
- You now realize that there are two minds at work. Mark Manson refers to this as “The Two Minds.” There is the Thinking Mind––the part of you that started thinking about your 5th grade crush. And then there is the Observing Mind––the part of you that observed you thinking about your 5th grade crush. In short: Your Thinking Mind; the part that is reading this. Your Observing Mind; the part that is watching you read this.
What it boils down to; your mind watching your mind. Creepy shit, dude.
Now that we got that out of the way, we need to understand both parts of the Thinking Mind and the Observing Mind just a wee bit better to help bring this all home.
Our main problem is that we don’t have complete control over the Thinking Mind. It spews good for nothing thoughts like word vomit, and walks to the beat of its own drum for the most part. 92% of the time, just know that the Thinking Mind is a douchebag.
Think back to the last time someone told you not to think of something specific. What was the very first thing you did? You sons of bitches thought of it in mere milliseconds. If I were to offer you $5000 and all you had to do, is not think of Trump getting kicked in the face by a Kangaroo wearing a Superman cape, you would have easily lost out on $5000. But I will take a thank you for giving you guys an awesome mental image.
You’re Thinking Mind was at work creating this beautiful mental image, while your Observing Mind was watching you do this, as it was telling you not to think of it. The fuck, Justin? I know, I know. But if we can’t differentiate the Thinking Mind from the Observing Mind, our lives are going to be hell.
If you don’t make a conscious effort to move through life with awareness or keep up with a mindfulness practice, chances are you’re not even remotely aware of the fact that the Thinking Mind has been making you its bitch since day one. Not me, bro and I don’t even have a mindfulness practice. Oh, most definitely you. Bro.
It’s our job to work on becoming more aware. This consist of strengthening the Observing Mind so that when we do experience a sudden shift in our state of being, that the Thinking Mind tends to create, we have the awareness to catch ourselves before we act on it. Before we let the Thinking Mind make us its bitch…again.
The Sacred Pause
Tara Brach refers to this moment as “The Sacred Pause,” but is also an idea seen across many religions. If you can’t get down with me saying “mindfulness practice,” this is the result we’re looking to achieve from said practice. Like working out at the gym, the more we work on moving through life with awareness on a second to second basis, the stronger our ability will be to use that Sacred Pause.
If you can catch yourself as the Thinking Mind spits out a random thought or emotion, and you can use the Sacred Pause to observe it before you entertain the idea, then you get what I’m putting down this week.
Next week, I’ll go over how to take full advantage of the Sacred Pause, which is ultimately helping us from attaching to our thoughts and emotions. But for now, we’re done with this week. I’m going to bullet the main highlights from this post and how we can start to use them in daily life because I know this Two Mind mumbo-jumbo can take your head for a ride.
- Starting to increase your awareness on a daily basis is the name of the game
- We experience a lot of thoughts in the course of a day
- Because we only experience them, means we are not our thoughts
- There are Two Minds constantly at work
- Thinking Mind projects random thoughts and emotions
- Observing Mind watches the random thoughts and emotions
- Without strengthening the Observing Mind, it will be hard to have an upper hand over the Thinking Mind which means we’ll be at the whim of the Thinking Mind, always. AKA lost in thought
- Luckily the Observing Mind can be trained like a muscle through incorporating daily mindfulness practices
- Training the Observing Mind leads to a stronger recall of the Sacred Pause
- My 5th grade crush was Gabby
- She was the first woman to break my heart
- No, I’m not still salty
- Yes, she was a bitch
On top of the Sacred Pause, next week I’m going to break down the process of a thought or emotion, and our attachment to them. Your goal until then is to work on increasing your awareness and the use of the Sacred Pause. Just know though, hours, maybe even a day or a week might go by before you remember to do something that will help strengthen this practice. If you’re this person do whatever you have to do so you don’t forget. Get it done.
How this looks:
- When you walk, know that you are walking
- When you sit, know that you’re sitting
- When you’re driving your car, know that you are driving your car (being aware that I feel the steering wheel is what I do––when I can remember)
- When an emotion arises (anger, joy, sadness) see if you can watch it without acting on it. This is the Observing Mind in action
- In short, wherever you are, be there. Be aware
Simple enough. Catch you next week, friends.
“It’s ok to worry, stress, self criticize, we just tend to make it worse than it needs to be and with meditation or mindfulness you’re able to draw the line. When you play it out for the 17th time in your head just ask is this useful?” – Joseph Goldstein
Edited by: Patricia Hendriks