“It’s not his baby!” A distraught, middle-aged woman yelled at the top of her lungs. Her brown disheveled hair concealed her face, covering up her inharmonious contours and wrinkles. She lunged forward in heavy steps by-passing me without noticing my presence.
I looked at her shockingly as she stumbled further down the sidewalk. Her arched back slowly disappeared into the dark night. I could no longer see her, but her loud voice continued on echoing in the air. It was all gibberish, nothing that I could understand.
As she disappeared into the background, I slowly shook my head and sighed. “It looks like she is totally lost in her own mind. Something unfortunate happened to her, and she kept those events alive within her. Walking by, she didn’t even notice me standing next to her when she yelled.”
I was shocked, but even more so I was morose at her situation. We all lose ourselves when we think too much. There is nothing wrong with that. But the problem arises when we are totally identified with our thoughts. This happens when our thoughts become who we are.
If you truly believe that you are your thoughts, then you are mistaken. The fact that we can think about our own thoughts makes us separate from them.
What happened to the middle-age lady was that she couldn’t tell the difference between her thoughts and her current reality. Perhaps she suffered through a tragedy that was so intense, she couldn’t let it go. She lost control of her mental faculties. She clung to the past and allowed those thoughts to pervade her mind. She didn’t notice me, her surrounding, or her own body.
Any person would say that she is crazy. But to me, a crazy person is just someone who is totally identified with thinking. If you ever talked to a crazy person in an institution, you know that she is always lost in her own world. She cannot separate her thoughts from who she is. She is mentally ill.
In our society, mental illness is overlooked. The reason that is so is because it is very common. We have access to countless knowledge and information in our age. It is easy, extremely easy to lose oneself in thoughts by consistent dwelling in mindless, unimportant, and trivial information. Add this to our everyday interactions, you can say that there are very few times when our mind isn’t thinking, or overexerting itself.
When we think so much, it is very easy to create illusions. We over-think things and make things not what they are. We give these thoughts importance and value, but in return we form an unbreakable attachment to them. They identify who we are, and run our lives.
When this happens, we develop a series of chronic mental disorder. We react to every little thing and everything has the power to dictate our mood. Anxiety becomes our everyday partner; depression, our closest neighbor; and stress, our loyal spouse.
I find all of this ironic. We, as a species, have the highest intelligence on this planet. Yet, if I may claim so, we are also the saddest species on earth. Why is it?
Our Intelligent Mind
Our brain is a phenomenal machine many times more capable than a supercomputer. It can create so many simulations and scenarios. If I ask you to picture yourself right now through a bird-eyes view ten feet above your head, can you do that? If I ask you to think about your thoughts at noon tomorrow and at noon tomorrow to think about your thoughts now, can you do that? Yes, we can do all of them because we are self aware.
Our brain is aware of itself; it is capable of learning and growth. It is not static, but dynamic. It is adaptive to knowledge and views. If our brain has all these capabilities, then why do people still suffer from excessive thoughts?
The reason is simple. Our mind is not working for us, but working against us. This is true especially if you look at animals. They have a fraction of human intelligence, of our mind. Yet, they can perform the necessary and basic functions for their survival. They eat, sleep, and reproduce.
When all of our needs are for our survival, then you don’t need a highly intelligent brain. An animal can do just that. When our stomach is empty, we only have one problem. When our stomach is full, we have a hundred problems.
And I’ll say this with honesty. Of those 100 problems, at least 99 of them are no problems at all. They are all trivial, or as I call them, self created problems. They are problems that you want because your mind made them so.
Do you think animals make problems out of their situations? Do you think they spend their days wallowing in depression? How about complaining and whining about the past?
Have you ever seen a cat that doesn’t know how to relax or a dog that doesn’t know how to be happy over the simplest of things? Why is it that when we have such an intelligent brain, yet we fail to be intelligent in our actions and thoughts? These are the questions worth thinking, not ‘what is wrong with this world blah, blah, blah’.
If you’ve ever noticed a certain trend, you can see that many people value simple mindedness and peace. They always want to return to the childlike state of innocence and simple joy. What people want is nothing more than a big, fat illusion.
When you are a kid, you are told to do this and that. You have to abide by a strict schedule. You have to eat all those nasty vegetables that you have no power to turn down from your parents. You can’t wait to become an adult so that you can be free and have the capability to do whatever it is that you want.
Truthfully, if you were to turn into a childlike state where you are innocent and happy over the simplest thing, then you become someone else. Perhaps, you can even say that you are mentally challenged at this point. You lost your initial thoughts and mind.
The main reason people value simple mindedness and peace is because they believe they don’t have them. If you have them, it is just a normal part of everyday living. People value things they think they don’t have. It is rare for people to value things they do have, because they are preoccupied with thoughts of what they don’t have.
If your mind is in conflict with itself, then peace is what you want. But let me tell you something. If you really want peace, you wouldn’t be in conflict with yourself in the first place.
The reason people have become so miserable is because they value conflict by enlarging them. They are addicted to misery and self pity. If you truly value peace and simple joy, then you will do whatever it takes to avoid creating so much pain. You say, “Today, no matter what, I will create a peaceful, loving, and a joyful world.” And if 100 bad things happen to you, 100 different lessons learned.
To be honest with you, people have made peace and simple joy farfetched qualities of a sage-like character. They made it so that these qualities are the end goal for all people. However, that is not true. Peace and simple joy are the basic prerequisites you need to start living life. They shouldn’t be something you achieve at the end; you must have them now or never.
In truth, you always have them. When you eat lunch, you are at peace and at ease at the very least. When you do something you like you are at peace and at ease. In retrospect, the reason you want to be at peace and at ease is because you want them in every situation.
If this is what you want, then you can have it. But first, please cultivate the mind.
Your Mind Is like a Garden
A very good analogy that you can think of for your mind is to picture it as a garden. If you leave your mind unattended like a garden, then useless weed seeds (excessive, negative thoughts) will unconsciously sprout from it. What you must do is to sow the kind of seeds that you desire by continuously tending to your garden.
Refrain from planting the seeds of hatred, envy, despair, or other so called negative emotions and you won’t reap those results.
This is hard if your garden is already full of weeds that sprout several feet into the air. When your mind is full of negative thoughts, then it is the same as a garden full of weeds producing more weeds. As addictive as it may be, as tempting as it may feel, please stop at once.
What you must do is to clear the fields slowly. Before you can make room for your desired plants, you must empty the garden of weeds. This is what I meant by having peace as the prerequisite to living life. Before you can be happy, you need to be at peace. Before you can use your mind, you must empty it from all those negative, excessive thoughts.
You do this by eliminating the negative thoughts. If you can’t do this, then start by refraining from thinking too much or looking too deep into any situation.
To take this further, even if your garden is full of weeds, can you be ok with it? We all know that certain weeds even bloom beautiful flowers. That is to say that something good can happen from a bad situation. This is no different than learning from your suffering. When you suffer so much, sometimes you awaken, learn, and grow.
However, this is not always the case. Some people drive themselves crazy to the point of no return.
If you want your garden to be full of bountiful flowers guaranteed, then the direct approach remains the same. Remove excessive weeds, and sow the seeds of your desired plants.
Even in a fully grown garden of beautiful vegetations, if you leave the garden unattended for a while, then trouble will come again. Useless weed seeds will find their way into your garden. What I mean by this is that there is no end path to cultivating the mind. Just because you beautify your mind to the point where you are at ease and at peace, doesn’t mean you should let it run wild afterwards.
If you do so, then you may unconsciously fall back into a pattern of destructive thinking and bad habits. This is why beautifying your mind is a lifestyle. It is a part of your life more than anything else. It isn’t something you check off on your to-do list and forgotten once the task is complete.
My cousin Simon once commented on a co-worker and told me that he is a very shady person. I asked him why and he told me that his actions were suspicious and cheap. We both knew the co-worker and I never felt that way towards him.
Maybe what my cousin Simon said was the truth, but whatever it is, it is only the truth to him. Only the negativity in you can recognize the negativity in others. The positivity in you doesn’t recognize the negativity in others. It only recognizes the good qualities of others.
This is why I always give people the benefit of the doubt, to think highly of everyone and everything. By planting the seeds of positivity, I reap their respective rewards. This kind of living is empowering and allows one to be at ease. It is also a key to my perception of happiness. It is something that I have always understood deep down in my heart.
If you are suspicious of people, then you sow the seeds of negativity creating room for it to grow. Wariness, anxiety, and doubts would be your constant companion. I know this is true because I have felt both side of it. This way of living sucks the life out of you.
It is often said that wealth and success is a wonderful thing worth pursuing in life. That in pursing them, you pursue after happiness. I don’t know how much of that is true, but that doesn’t matter. What I do know is how desirable is a mentally composed individual who is at peace and at ease effortlessly. Those qualities are worth their weight in fine gold.