We are a society of achievers. Only in North America do we consider 2 weeks vacation A YEAR acceptable. We work long hours for success and we work enthusiastically for money and we work diligently for status and we work hard simply because we were brought up to honour a hearty work ethic. Then when we’re done work we go to the gym and work on our bodies. We work on our muscles and our heart/lung capacity. We work on our hobbies in our spare time. We work on sporting activities and we work on bettering ourselves at them. We may work on music and the making thereof because it brings us joy. We work on raising good kids, we work on taking care of our pets, we work at looking after our people and we most certainly should work on our relationships.
Work, work, work.
And we do most of it with conviction and acceptance. Sure we may on occasion fudge here or there but we are well aware that we must work to live. To thrive. To survive.
But then, after bank accounts, physical bodies, relationships, hobbies and responsibilities have been attended to with the most conscious of efforts, do we THEN work on our minds?
I’m not talking about reading or learning or exploring new things or even teaching. I am talking about working on our own minds. Our personal sanctuaries of chaos, bedlam, pandemonium and the occasional burst of clarity.
In my experience most people don’t spend much time working on their minds, they do not work on consciously controlling their thoughts and more importantly they do not even understand how their thoughts control THEM because they don’t believe they can. They DO NOT believe they are in charge of what goes on upstairs.
But they are. YOU are.
Yes. You are in charge of how much weight you lift, how may miles you run, how many hours you put in at work AND what is going on in the old noggin.
Let’s try a few examples (just in case you’ve decided I’ve truly gone off my rocker this time).
L was ditched by her beau. Many years ago B left her for another woman. L still has “conversations” with B almost every day. They just happen in L’s head. L creates almost daily an entire intricate dialogue between B and herself. What she should have said to him, the lying bastard. What she wished she could have said to him when her heart was breaking. L even invents B’s portion of the program. She invents what B should have said. She invents what B would say if he saw her now. She invents what she would say to B and his new love if she ran into them and she even invents her new lover Brad Pitt who would of course be on her arm when she met B and his new lover.
Seriously, we’ve all done it, right?
I know I have. I still do. But ever since my friend and guru Thomas Wade told me to stop doing it guess what? I have stopped doing it. Sure I start doing it and the moment I realize what I am doing I STOP! Just like that. I remind myself that these imaginary conversations are a) stupid b) pointless c) unrealistic and d) stupid.
Did I mention stupid?
They are a waste of the limited space in my mind. My imagination is much better served writing a song, redecorating a room or creating a fabulous dinner. Every moment I waste (WASTE is a big fat operative word here) is of my own doing. Remember that. I am wasting my brain on delusions. And those delusions keep the Ferris wheel spinning. The Ferris wheel of my past and its hold on me.
K lives in a constant state of anxiety. K worries about money and getting fired from his job and hating his job and K worries about not succeeding in his career or life or relationships and K struggles with getting older and being surpassed by his peers. K is anxious a lot. So K drinks. Probably too much. And when K gets tipsy these concerns multiply and overwhelm.
Perhaps if K could learn to control those ever-present thoughts, and I mean control as in tell them to fuck off every now and then, K could get on with life. Instead of being paralyzed with fear K could make a plan. K could make a plan with conscious steps that he could implement daily so that perhaps K could actually get where he wants to go without giving in to drink far too regularly.
Oh come on, Vickie, “No one can control their thoughts!” you are now shouting. We can’t all control our anxiety.
I know. Control is a big fat impossible word.
We can’t control.
What we can do is manage. We can manage our thoughts.
When L realizes she is manufacturing yet another dialogue SHE can shut it down. SHE can nip it in the bud. SHE can turn her thoughts to something else. ANYTHING else but this ridiculous mythological conversation that never was and most likely never will be.
K can also train himself to manage his thoughts. What’s the old saying – “If you’re depressed you’re living in the past, if you’re anxious you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace you’re living in the present.” K can train himself to BE present. Present in a crappy job, present in plans for the future, present in enjoying the moments and present in gratitude for life. K can still be cognizant of his challenges and K can still make plans to overcome them. What K is not obligated to do is live in chaos while he does this.
And by chaos I mean the chaos of the mind.
I’ve been called “a handful” more than once in my life. As a matter of fact I have been called “a handful” so many times I started to believe it must be true.
The reality is my brain goes a mile a minute, 1440 minutes a day. Okay, that’s not true because I do sleep. I will say I have some pretty crazy dreams but I’m sure there must be a few moments every day that my mind actually shuts down. So IF I am a handful I think it’s because there is always SOMETHING going on upstairs that I feel compelled to sort out and then possibly share. Why do you think I write a blog?
But here’s the reality. Whatever is going on in my blonde head is under my jurisdiction. If I allow it to seep out, it shall. If I choose to let it gush so be it. And if I choose to render it silent for all time THAT too is my choice. MY jurisdiction. MY control.
I get to choose my thoughts, I get to choose (or exile) my make-believe communications, I get to choose to acquiesce to my overwhelming fears or I get to choose to tell my brain to shut the fuck up when it is not serving my best interests.
My brain does not get to choose. I get to choose.
So do you. So does everyone.
It’s not simple or easy or natural. You know what it is? It is work. It takes practice and practice and then more practice, just like tennis, playing the guitar or brain surgery.
So I urge you to try it. And then practice it. And then practice it some more.
Juts like going to the gym, giving up white sugar and quitting smoking – it won’t be easy. Not at first. But you WILL get the hang of it. It will become more natural. Pretty soon it won’t feel like work at all and you’ll just be doing it.
YOU will be controlling your thoughts.
Not all of them, but enough. Enough to give you dominion and a modicum of government.
Trust me, it’s work. Mindful (pardon the pun) HARD work.
But worth it. You wouldn’t want your pancreas running amok, would you? Or your liver?
Take charge of your brain. You are the General. Your thoughts are your soldiers.
Just start with basic training and see what happens …