Finding Peace in a Sea of Thoughts
You are a boat. Your mind is the ocean. On the surface there are various phases of wind and waves. Sometimes the sea surges and the storms create giant swells. Most the time we are convinced that there is only peace when the waves settle. But what is to be discovered is that underneath the surface of the rolling ocean is infinite depths of calm waters. Learning how to break the surface and go into our deeper self is where an unlimited supply of peace exists. No one has to change anything outside themselves to obtain a little more peace.
There is a source of unlimited peace to be found that is available to everyone, at all times. That place is in the mind. Technically it is underneath the surface of the mind - behind all the inner commentary that constantly talks to us throughout the day. All day the mind is chattering about what to do next or showing instant replays on something that already happened. We have imaginary conversations in our head with people that are not around us. We play situations over and think what we could have done differently or what was wrong with someone else’s behavior. The voice in the head endlessly speaks. If you are thinking to yourself, “I don’t have a voice in my head,” - that’s the voice.
The cause of the constant chattering mind is nervous energy. And nervous energy produces more inner dialogue. The brain seems to never stop planning, talking, dreaming and worrying. On the other side of all this incessant mental-chirping is peace. Many people find this rare level of relaxation when they go on vacation. The mind has an irrational fear that if it is not always talking we are going to miss out on life or fall short on our potential. Contrarily, very little of life is affected by our inner dialogue. No matter what you want, people’s decisions, outcomes of events and worries are unaffected by your thinking.
Around the time I got into meditation I started doing little experiments with detaching from my busy mind. I discovered that 95% of what my mind says is absolutely meaningless. That was a lot of peace I was missing out on. Here’s what else I’ve observed:
As I became more aware, I started to see the futility of the majority of my thoughts. Neurologists have agreed that we have at least 50,000 thoughts per day. 95% of them are the exact same thoughts we had the previous day. And a relative 70% of those are negative. Becoming frustrated at negative thoughts only creates more negative thoughts. And we can’t beat a negative thought to death with a positive one. The best method I have found is to simply step back and start to observe my thoughts. Just because I’m thinking something doesn’t mean it is real. In fact, thoughts are not reality, they are just thoughts. The less I participate in the jibber-jabber, the more my mind begins to clear. It is a practice that takes a lot of, well, practice.
Live in the now is a great new buzz phrase, but if you haven't noticed, the now is constantly hijacked by the mind's addiction to wander. Another little habit our consciousness picked up is the need to identify everything. When we look at a statue we already see it in it’s entirety - every single crack, curve and texture, yet the voice has to jump in and say, “wow that is beautiful,” and then “look at the detail in David’s hair.” While this doesn’t pose an immediate threat, if you pay close attention our mind obsessively does this in every situation. Symptoms like forgetting people’s names or what they said, repeating ourselves, missing social cues, missing appointments, and anything attention-deficit usually has some direct tie to this mental pattern. By being attentive to each moment we find a tremendous amount of joy in each thing we do. From a simple conversation with a coworker to a long drive through the countryside, being present for life is most important for having more peace. Our mind doesn’t have to pull us away.
Our mind can believe the illusion that if we think about something enough it can affect the outcome. No matter how intensely you wish for the weather to be a certain way, it will be unaffected. This is called wishful thinking. All compulsive thinking spends valuable energy and produces no return. Also, life would be mundane if everything went to our mind’s plan. The excitement in life comes from the unexpected. In order for the unexpected to occur, we must allow things to happen, rather that trying to make them happen. Obviously, no one is going show up at work for you and pay your bills, but having patience and openness to new possibilities is where the joy of life exists. Trying to control every single aspect of our life leaves us with a feeling of being out of control. As each event lays perfectly into the next, we see that most of the world is just happening. Watching the miracle in front of us and playing our small part is another way to bring peace into our life.
The initial fear of letting go of excessive-thinking is that we won’t have the wits to get the most out of life. I’ve discovered that by untethering from thoughts I have only received more peace and better surprises. You will quickly see that the mind will not settle without a great fight. But the more I’ve become aware, the more I’ve seen that I don’t need to give merit to every thought I have. The more I’m present by listening and observing, the closer I feel to my fellows. And the more I let things happen, the more I realize that everything is happening exactly as it should. My life is a miracle and so is yours. Don’t miss out on it in a sea of pointless thoughts.