Numbing the Mind vs. Freeing the Mind
I want to preface this article by acknowledging that all people, except maybe the Dalai Lama, use different forms of numbing behaviors throughout the day and I don’t believe that it is helpful to label them “good” or “bad”. Certain behaviors may be bad for your health, bad for the environment, or bad for the world but, I’m talking about the individual decision to tune out, rather than tune in. I also don’t believe that these decisions are always made consciously or even semi-consciously. Part of the human experience is battling the undercurrent of energy that draws us to things that we know, intellectually, are not healthy for us. With that being said, it has come to my attention through my own experience and sharing experiences with others, that it’s possible to be so numb that a “free mind” or a “freeing of the mind” is impossible to comprehend. Before you balk at the idea, this isn’t some weird new hippy philosophy and I’m not saying that I’ve figured out the answer to life. The idea that you are not your thoughts but, the awareness of them, has been around for centuries. The world we live in has sped up so much that although, we are able to connect at an extremely rapid rate, we are also given the option to disconnect more than we ever have. To be clear, here are some ways that we use our external world to mute or disconnect from our inner experience.
It can be mind-blowing, joyful, scary, weird, and confusing when you begin to watch your mind. For instance, I was always under the impression that I was a laid-back dude that didn’t care much too much about competition. After further review, I came to realize that I have a constant anxious narrative in my head telling me that I won’t make enough money, that I haven’t done enough, and that I’m lazy. I noticed that my mind is habitually sizing myself up with others and creating my self-image based up on that. Crazy, right?! It turns out, not so much. As I began to talk with other people that watch their mind, they reported very similar experiences and comparable tuning-out methods. We really aren’t that different.
So, what is my bottom line here? It is that awareness is the key to freeing the mind and that it can be tricky business, given the machine in our own heads is out to distract us by any means necessary. This isn’t because it’s evil or because we are being controlled by the devil. It just does this because that is what the mind is programmed to do. It’s designed to solve problems and if you haven’t noticed, life provides an endless supply of problems. Here is the catch. You don’t have to “do” anything to solve this problem of mind. You just have to “be”. The rest will unfold in each moment.
Sit in complete silence without any of your usual distraction for 10 minutes. Try to find a timer besides your phone. Begin to watch your breath as it goes in and out without you needing to do anything. Pay attention to where you might be holding any attention. You may begin to shift your attention to noises, bodily sensations, smells, or thoughts. Just notice what you happen to notice in the moment. It’s okay if your attention gets pulled away to a future conversation or past event. Gently, bring your awareness back to the breath and continue to breath. This is meditation. As you begin to do this day after day, you will notice patterns and different experiences. You may try to sit with specific questions and you may be inspired to read different books. No matter what happens, you have begun the process of freeing your mind. As you do this, there will be less and less need to numb.