At the root of most spiritual traditions is what could be called the healing of the mind. Or quieting of the mind. By mind we mean that entity that creates unsolicited and mostly unwanted thoughts.
“I’m not good enough/smart enough/thin enough/successful enough.” “Why didn’t she say ‘hi’ to me? I always say hi to her. She’s just rude.” “She broke up with me because I have nothing to offer…”
These mind-created thoughts torment most of the seven billion people populating our planet and are the root cause of most suffering in our world.
Healing the mind is central to spirituality
The spiritual traditions, especially Buddhism and Hinduism, recognize this malady as the central problem facing human beings. The prescription is, in the simplest terms, quieting or healing the mind. Because when we quiet the mind what we’re left with is our essential, conscious, true self.
How do we do that? We can approach that question in many different ways and many of my other articles have done so. Meditation. Mindfulness. You know all about those.
Today’s piece tries to help by illuminating the underlying “how” of healing the mind with an analogy. It relates to how we heal our physical injuries.
Put a band-aid on it and leave it alone
Here it is. You’re in your kitchen dicing an onion and you get a nasty cut on your finger. What do you do? You run it through some water, dry it, then put a band-aid on it.
Then what do you? You leave it alone. You let nature do its work. The more you get involved with that cut in the coming days the worse off you’ll be. Which means you don’t pick at the scab or constantly touch it. You just leave it alone.
This same course of treatment holds for healing our minds. Here’s how.
Leave your thoughts alone
Let’s stipulate that the equivalent of a finger cut for the mind is an unwanted thought or emotion. If we’re meditating and we notice a thought, what do we do? We notice it, then let it go. What we don’t do is engage with it. “Why am I having thoughts during meditation about the speech I have to give next week? Stop that!” That is the equivalent of picking at a scab.
Similarly, if somebody triggers your ego (which is, in essence, another word for mind) by, for example, suggesting you need to work out more (and you have a longstanding issue with body image), what should you do? You should notice that awful feeling that comment elicits, probably in your stomach somewhere if you’re like me, and then simply watch it.
Mickey counsels to not touch it
Mickey Singer teaches us to watch that feeling and don’t touch it. What would ‘touching it’ look like? “Wow. That really hurt. That comment makes me feel fat and just plain bad.” That is the equivalent of picking at the scab.
The best thing to do is just lean away, remain in your seat of self (the conscious you) and watch that feeling. When we do that, guess what happens? Nature does its thing and releases that energy upward, which is the same thing as letting go of our ego.
We don’t do anything to heal that part of our mind, just as we don’t do anything to heal that cut. We just watch the feeling. That’s it.
We also don’t go into defense mode and say,
“Hey, screw him. I don’t need to workout more. I’m fine just the way I am. If he doesn’t like it he can take a hike.”
Defending ourselves is just another way of picking at the scab. That’s you trying to heal things. Again, you don’t do the healing. Nature does.
Watching isn’t easy
The rub here, as many of you are probably thinking, is that this watching thing is easier said than done. When we get triggered, the tendency is to send our egoic forces into battle, often in less than a second.
So that’s where the work is for most of us. Not allowing our consciousness to be dragged down into our lower selves.
What we’re really doing here is getting rid of the things that aren’t the real ‘us’ by simply remaining in the seat of self and watching those things that aren’t us. And then letting nature politely escort those ‘not us’ thoughts and emotions out the door of our being.
What would I love for you to take away from this article? The realization that the mind can’t heal the mind. So when you find that you’re arguing with yourself or wrestling with yourself or defending yourself, do your best to simply notice that your mind is trying to fix things. Then step back into your seat of self and watch your mind at work. Because your mind isn’t you. That entity watching your mind is you.
Ultimately, I hope you’ll view this as surpassingly positive news. Why? Because all you really have to work on is strengthening your ‘watcher.’ How? Meditate regularly. Practice mindfulness. And commit a boatload of your will and attention to working on this.
If you do so, slowly but surely, you’ll feel lighter and lighter and better and better as you let nature offload all the mind baggage that weighs so many of us down. You’ll also get better at your job, better in your relationships and become a more compassionate human being. In other words, the work is well worth it!