Bret W. Lester

Mind Control

Ashamed of a thought? You are not your mind.

The mind can be like a runaway firehose. It flails every which way. Some ghastly thoughts may come to mind. Any manner of random things can come to mind. You are in no way obliged to acknowledge any of these splatterings of consciousness.

You are not your mind.

What's it like to be a cat, or a fish, or any of these animals that can sit idly for significant portions of the day, just watching the world go by, content with stillness? When I watch an animal pass the day away like this, I think they're at one with the universe. They've got meditation on demand.

But humans are a special kind of animal. For the exception of an enlightened subset, humans cannot be still. The mind is always pushing them toward doing. Anything to keep the firehose from flailing. It flails when stillness sets in. Another word for stillness is boredom. Humans hate boredom. That's when the mind starts assembling thoughts, all manner of thoughts. It can really spin out of control.

But you're free to ignore it. That's what meditation is all about, right? I've never been able to pull it off. I'd rather just do something. Walking, writing, fishing, hiking, swimming, video games, whatever. Something active to quell the mind.

Although you are not your mind, it's so much easier to distract it by staying active because the mind has a lot of power over you and it's best to avoid confronting it head on. So I guess the pastimes I mentioned are a form of mind control although perhaps of the indirect sort.

But why is it so hard to just be still? Why is meditation so hard? Why doesn't the mind have an off switch? Here's an interesting challenge, spend an entire day doing absolutely nothing. No picking up your phone. Nothing. Sit in the same place all day with your head pointing in the same direction. What happens? I can guarantee that you won't be physically harmed, but such an activity is so outside the norm that you'd think it was fatal. It's probably one of the most agonizing things a human can think of doing. You're not in physical danger, there are no threats to your survival. So why is it so agonizing?

Millions of years of evolution made us this way.

Before modern times, isolation and stillness probably meant death, because it meant you'd been separated from your tribe or something. So perhaps this thing we call boredom is a vestigial survival mechanism. But now, isolation is not an existential threat in the strictest of terms. So why should it remain so agonizing? Theoretically it shouldn't. So theoretically, you should be able to just ignore your mind-hose and bask in the stillness. But it's hard. Your mind is constantly digging up old memories, working and theorizing, assembling scenarios, devising patterns. It won't shutup and be still.


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