And how to recover from it
People often say: a penny for your thoughts. How about popcorn instead? How many bagfuls of popcorn can you pack! My machine runneth over.
Let me explain: I decided to do a little experiment. Each time, my mind harkened a distant memory, squirmed at the thought of the future or parroted something I had heard from somebody – I would pretend to be hit with a popcorn kernel. And before I knew it, I was inundated with innumerable flying popcorn kernels, gone completely berserk.
This is not sci-fi fiction. If I don’t treat myself as a walking-talking laboratory, and keep perfecting my already-perfect self, how will I reach my awe-inspiring potential? At least, that’s what the movies say we all are.
I think, therefore, I am.
While despair and panic threatened to seize me, I SOSed my best friend, who calmly asked me to drink a glass of milk and sleep.
But the kernels continued to hit me: What is the conversation that goes on inside our head? Whose voices are milling around? Which is my true and original voice? Are we reflecting the conditioned waves of thinking that have been passed on to us? Did I truly want that cheese croissant and say no to that carrot juice or was it because I wanted to fit in with the group?
If I wear sunglasses, my world will appear shaded. Was my mind also wearing the shades handed over to me? By friends, the movies, family, books, influences? Today, it is cat-eye, yesterday was the aviator look and tomorrow? Then, who is the real me?
The head felt swamped by a swarm of bees buzzing right into my ear – all through whispering their strange conspiracy. Their cacophony is so loud that I would not be able to hear any other voice. Even if the voice is mine, telling myself what I really think!
My spirit began drooping under the weight of these kernels and bees, promising to bury me soon. It was then that my friend bombarded me with a series of messages, which my phone acknowledged and beeped away, finally groaning with the effort.
I want you to step aside for one moment and watch all the conversations you have had in your life.
Can you step aside and look at that?
You have fought with people, praised people, fallen in love, fallen out of love. Is any of that here, right now?
Everything else binds you into some limited concepts about yourself and people. And that blinds you from infinity.
In all those conversations there was justice, injustice, dharma, adharma.
Your opinions have changed, likes and dislikes have changed, and all those conversations are gone like the wind. We are harboring them in the mind, and we are limiting the mind.
My mind promised to shrink into a raisin at the wisdom of my young friend, I was told these are quotes from a spiritual guru, which inspire her. The shriveled raisin of my ego promptly became a plump one.
He who angers you, conquers you.
– Elizabeth Kenny, an Australian Bush nurse
I’d like to add to this – anything that occupies you, conquers you. And how.
Everything starts with just a trigger of a thought. The memory of a past incident triggers a certain emotional response which, in turn, triggers a physical response, a sensation in the body. The body is prepping for a physical response – and is already experiencing that. All with just a thought.
Other conquests threaten to conquer over you. How about the time when you know the conversation around you is negative, not uplifting and not something you want to participate in? Does the pressure to contribute and sync with the group make you act otherwise?
Embrace your inner radio silence
Well, the mind can continue racing – sometimes beyond one’s control.
Useful/other influences / anchoring in the past or throwing a line in the future of hope – thoughts will come in all shapes and sizes. Salted, caramel, perhaps with a little spicy cheese?
“No more, I’ve had enough for today. Why don’t we simply watch the view? And observe the lines from afar.” Imagine telling your thoughts this. Simply observing them, without judgment or attachment. Sometimes, it’s best not to have a cocktail of popcorn flavors in a single day. When was the last time I sat in silence and simply ‘be-ed’?
Note to myself
I didn’t know all that. But I did acknowledge that the mind needs to be lifted out of its fog, again and again. And so I jotted down a note to myself. Here goes:
- Don’t judge a thought: Observe it and allow it to move on.
- Be focused on your goal: This would give me the energy to do whatever is necessary and won’t allow me to be determined by temporary setbacks.
- Be action-oriented: Once the focus is there, keep working and complete the work at hand.
- Take care of your health: Improper vitamin levels, lack of blood circulation, or even indigestion can create havoc in our mind-body ecosystem. Nourish, cleanse, and respect the vessel.
- Practice makes perfect: Do yoga, pranayama, and meditation. Buddy up with people to accelerate and deepen the practice.
- Find my mantra: If the mind is too restless, or confused or reflecting too many conversations, just chill and say: “Chittam mantrah”- let the mind become the mantra. Quieten the mind by concentrating on any chanting, mantra that I like. When my mind and mantra become one, the mind is quiet and free.
- Don’t fit in, always: Sometimes if we don’t have anything to offer to the conversation or the company, then it’s better to maintain a friendly silence. Or engage in an unobtrusive activity. I had a friend in college who would turn to her book, every time the conversation revolved around gossip. She was wise!
- Self-evaluate: I find self-reviews keep things real. What am I doing that is benefitting others? Am I focussing on small things or am I able to think from a larger perspective? Am I being true to myself? I find this removes a lot of the unnecessary chatter, cuts to the heart of the matter.
- Praise, again and again: I follow what someone has wisely said: “Many of us are accustomed to seeing the negative in others and clasping it in our memory as though that is the eternal truth. We ignore the likelihood that our perception could be flawed. Perhaps our biases did not let us see the complete picture. Or maybe it is a habit for us to notice the negative. The solution to this is to consciously reverse our habit. Instead of looking for something to complain about, look for something to praise.”
- Stop the mind: Stop the mind for a few minutes. Exercise, listen to music, watch a sunrise or sunset, meditate, observe silence for a few minutes – do some practice daily that simply arrests the mind in the present moment. Keep coming back to the spot inside you which is you.
- Permanence of impermanence: The present – thoughts and life as we know it will change – take it as a dream or the reality of life. Just be aware of the certainty of impermanence. Then suddenly things seem crystal clear. Am I focussing on tiny, inconsequential things or aspects that truly matter? Invoke the dispassion in me.
This list seemed surprisingly well-thought-out. The plump raisin-like mental state really does wonders at keeping the popcorn away. I love the inspirations from others and the exhilaration of exploring the world. However, I realized it’s equally important to explore and understand my inner world and discover myself. Keep journeying through the tides and voices of the others to find the real me. If not for the satisfaction, and joy, at least to avoid getting black and blue with all the warm kernels!
Based on Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s wisdom talks
This article was first published on The Art of Living website