“The practice tells me the truth about how I should be spending my time.” This is my mantra in my work and what always makes me feel good when I recite it to myself. The reason this soothes me is because it is the opposite of what I otherwise believe. Without it, I am left to my mind’s recommendations about how I should be living my life, and there is never a shortage of suggestions. This would mean I would get lost down thought roads telling me this or that about how I should be managing the various areas of my existence. That mental recording is always on high speed. This is normal and familiar so why would I doubt it?
Well I am someone inclined toward self-inquiry practices, and so it is no surprise to me that I have created my own technique. Now that I am grounded in this one (Mindful Reality as I have named it) my mind automatically questions those thought patterns it recognizes as “shoulds,” even if they come in the gentlest packaging. So, what is the big deal? There really is no big deal if you are someone who does not suffer, but I have always been prone to pressure and consequently delight in the relief that inquiry brings. I have also always been a bit of a rebel, often going against the norm in whatever my immediate culture has been. Thus, it makes sense to me that I would question even my own thoughts in the end, feeling that they are not in my best interest. Strains of Buddhism and Hinduism that promote self-inquiry, i.e., questioning beliefs, were always appealing to me. Reality always felt like the pinnacle of truth.
Accordingly, now, I constantly remind myself (or my brain has been retrained and does it automatically) that whatever my mind is suggesting, no matter how benign it may seem, it does not know anything about what I will do in my future so there is no need to follow its lead. Information provided by my thoughts is not trustworthy, not because the mind is malicious but because it can only guess at what is in store for me. This is backwards of any normal thinking process but that is why it is called inquiry. It is meant to doubt everything except what I see myself doing. Since I can only see my actions when I am doing them, the work leaves me smack in the present moment. It can be kind of frustrating and weird, but ultimately satisfying because there can be no question that reality will always align with reality. I like that.
As a past meditator, I tend to treat my mind like I am in a constant meditation. Any thoughts that come in I don’t cling to or push away, but mostly I don’t take them seriously, not any of them. If I notice that I start to respond to a thought pattern too earnestly, even if it feels healthy and instructive, my greater awareness jumps in and discounts it. Here is a fun exercise that describes this mental game; it reminds me of Pac-Man or some kind of video game. I imagine thoughts falling from above like colored blobs, dropping, dropping, dropping. Every time one enters my range of sight I zap it with a zapper (the kind that would appear in a video game). Zap, zap, zap, none are allowed to make it into my sphere. They are all useless so none of them count. The air is clear of all colored blobs heading my way. It is very satisfying, as video games tend to be.
I guess my ultimate mantra is, “No thought is the right thought.” You may ask, “then why does she take her writing to heart?” I would answer that any message that lines up with reality I am happy to let in. It’s just that it’s rare that the mind is ever entertaining those kinds of thoughts. It is generally filled with suggestions, predictions, calculations, desires, and most of all, judgments and shoulds. I gladly welcome mental reports that mirror what I am doing in my life. Those bring no conflict.