Image credit:Erik Charlton
In my last post I talked about the illusion of control and its effects on our well-being and how letting go is the antidote. I mentioned that controlling our thoughts is effective to keep our minds at ease, and not succumb to fear and worry over the outcome of our endeavors. You may wonder, “Isn’t that also control?” And yes you are right. So controlling the mind and controlling thoughts is a manner of speaking. How you actually go about this practice is the opposite of control.
The practice of mindfulness, noticing our thoughts, noticing the inner critic and its ongoing commentary of our progress, is a skillful means of dealing with the mind. Whether we are sitting in formal posture for meditation or just noticing our thoughts as we engage in our daily activities, the way we choose to handle our hyper-active thinking is important. Telling yourself not to think those unwanted thoughts is like telling yourself not to think of a monkey, and guess what? It is all you can think of. Trying to stop the flow of thoughts is useless because it is the nature of thoughts to keep flowing. You only end up getting frustrated and beat yourself up for not succeeding.
The more we try to control thoughts by stopping them in their natural flow, the more we invite negative self- judgment and criticism because we are attempting the impossible. We escalate blaming and degrading our already insecure persona and encourage more feelings of lack of confidence and impotence. Getting caught in this downward spiral is the path to disaster. We may unconsciously undermine and sabotage our best intentions for success through our feelings of unworthiness. So the more we try to control things, the more ineffective we become.
Watching thoughts as they come up, naming them: anger, worry, fear etc., and witnessing them, not engaging in the web that they weave, allows them to move on. We are letting go. When we engage in some scenario that the mind throws up, we are caught and that is exactly where our ego wants us, trapped in fear, worry and its counterparts, self-loathing and unworthiness. As we practice witnessing our thoughts, we see how our thoughts can create our reality and we can choose not to go there. Witnessing thoughts helps us to detach from the lies the ego tells us which we believe to be the truth about ourselves. We simply watch and let go. In time, because there is no charge for the ego, no investment in hanging on to degrading thoughts, it just lets go. The mind then is free, and the truth of who we are is unveiled. With clarity, we can then access our highest potential, our birthright, just by the practice of letting go. This is a life-time practice, because it is the nature of the ego to hang in there. We just have to keep at it, keep letting go.