My brain, mind, thoughts, and intellect, what do we even call this computer permanently lodged in our skulls? According to most experts, the human brain is the most sophisticated and complex organization of matter in the universe. My brain is mostly just annoying. Every thought, feeling, memory, etc... goes through at least some sort of cognitive processing in the ol’ cabeza before it winds up getting served up as an action (or, inaction as the case may be). My brain wakes up before me. It's not unusual for me to barely be rising from slumber with my eyes still closed and my muscles not quite ready to move. But, guess who is awake. Sometimes, my own mind is like a four year old on Christmas morning (I'm Jewish, so why I picked this as a metaphor is beyond me. Maybe, my brain is Christian?). The point is that my brain oftentimes gets me up before my alarm clock even has a chance to do it's job, usually with lists, anxieties, fears, reiterations of previous day's events, and, unfortunately, poisonous resentments. Sometimes I get so mad at my mind!
In my younger days, I worked from the outside-in trying to turn it off, or reshape my thoughts. Much of the time, these short cuts to feeling good resulted in my inner narrative becoming even more negative. Eventually, this became unmanageable chaos. It's frustrating.
I want to be a certain way: disciplined, focused, committed, certain, easy-going, quick-to-learn, but often times, my brain is still that rambuctuous four year old. And, I exert enormous amounts of energy not trying become who I want to be, but rather in trying to conceal the feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, imaturity, impatience, and oversensitivity that well up seemingly by default from my cognitive well-spring of neurosis.
In talking to others I'm close and not so close with, I've come to realize that almost every mind works this way. Very few of us have control over the flow or direction of our thoughts. For most of us, turning off the negative voice in our head is impossible, and turning down the volume requires a lifetime of great attention and awareness.
So how do we all cope? It's hard not to set it. Look at the amount of people on psychotropic and anxiolytic medications. To say our county has been decimated by people using and abusing prescribed and illicit substances (I'd put alcohol on this list) would be a bike understatement. We distract ourselves with unhealthy diets, entertainment, social media, our smart phones, compulsive attention to current events, anything that takes our attention away from that which we don't want to focus on. But I say this isn't the answer. I believe that in succumbing to our desire for distraction, we can train our minds, much like an unruly child, to throw tantrums. We perpetuate the cycle.
It is important that our minds know who is boss. Our minds are here to serve us, not the other way around. Discipline is not usually something we are born with. It has to be learned and practiced. I have found that I do best, when I make myself do the things I don’t want to do. I’m comfortable in bed? Too bad, it’s time to get up, put on shoes, and go run. I’m bored and feeling snacky? I tell myself it’s not time to feed. I’ll have a glass of water instead. Oftentimes, the thing that will actually make me feel better seems like the last thing I want to do. When I’m stressed out or feeling anxious, the last thing I want to do is meditate, but if I make myself sit down on the floor, set the timer for 15”, and breathe, I’m usually pretty astounded at how much better I feel afterwards.
If we are going to change, then we have to change. And, if nothing changes, then nothing changes.