The untrained uncontrolled mind

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On Sunday an Indian gentleman came to my door to ask me for advice. A few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and true to our modern medicine model, was put on medication. I’m not sure what the name of the medication is, but according to him, it was not working for him. So, after I explained to him that taking any form of chronic medication is not a cure, but a mere suppression of a symptom, I told him that he needed to figure out why he was suffering from high blood pressure. He confirmed that he was under stress and from the short discussion we had I could make out that he was not following a particularly healthy lifestyle, not when it came to diet or exercise. He represents millions of people that expect the body to stay healthy without giving it the nutritional requirements it needs. This was however not the only problem. He struggled to sleep due to an overactive mind. He could not stop thinking. Even when visiting the mosque, he could not quieten his mind long enough to honour the reason he was there.

Lost in thought
Just like this Indian gentleman, most of us are lost in thought. I have a constant battle with not getting hijacked by my thoughts, but after doing a 9-week course in mindfulness, I at least recognise when it happens. How does one stop the mind from thinking? The bad news is you can’t. Just like the salivary gland secretes saliva, the mind secretes thoughts. Thought production per se is not bad; it’s simply what the mind does. The average person has seventeen thousand thoughts a day of which most are repetitive, one-sided and untrue. When we become aware of these thoughts and examine them, we see how our ridiculous, repetitive stream of thought constructs our limited sense of self, with judgements, defences, ambitions and compensations. When thoughts are unexamined, we believe them. Imagine someone following us all day, whispering to us our thoughts. Because of the repetitive nature of thought, we’d soon become bored by their words. If they continued, we would become depressed by their constant criticism and fears, then angry that they don’t ever shut up. Finally, we might simply conclude that they were crazy. Yet we do this to ourselves daily!
Byron Katie’s, ‘The Work’ was a revolutionary book in teaching how to question our thoughts and in this way change them. This of course means that you have to become aware of your thoughts first.

Be here now
How many times have you been in the shower and your mind was there with you; or were you already giving the presentation scheduled for the following day? Our thoughts, for the most part, are either projected into the future or are stuck in the past. To experience life to the fullest, the mind needs to be trained to stay in the present moment. Think about it, the future has not happened yet, and the past is gone, so right now, this very moment is all you have. The benefits of training the mind to be here now are endless. First and foremost, we step out of the incessant flood of thoughts, which quietens the mind and a quiet mind, without self-limiting thoughts gives rise to a more happy and peaceful individual. Because to body feels exactly how we think, the benefits to our health and well-being are endless.

So, next time you are in the car on your way to work, ask yourself if you are really in the car, or are you already at work? Once you ask that question it brings you back to the present moment. For the most part, our minds are untrained, so it’s not easy to stay in the present moment. A way to bring yourself back to the right now is to focus on your breath. Again, this takes training, since the mind becomes restless. It will try and convince you that you have many more important things to think about. Well, what is more important than peace of mind and ultimately your health?


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