When you are trying to quieten down a really busy mind, it’s like trying to control a wild horse. The horse is going to be bucking and kicking, it’s not going to want to do what you want it to do. Just like the horse does not want to be controlled and told what to do, the mind is the same. If you want to head in one direction it will probably want to head in the opposite direction. You could scream and swear at it until your face is red, but that will just make things worse. You could even pull a whip out and try to whip it until it does what you want but that won’t be effective either.
The conscious mind is like the rider of a horse, steering and guiding, setting outcomes and deciding directions. The subconscious mind is like the horse that actually does the work in getting the rider where they need to go. It’s not a good idea to let the horse dictate the direction and likewise it’s not advisable for the rider to tell the horse exactly where to step each foot. There is an optimum balance.
To tame a busy mind, just like a wild horse you need to develop a relationship of trust, respect and kindness. The way you do this is through mindfulness.
We can define mindfulness as awareness of the present moment in an objective way, with an acceptance of what’s happening in the moment. Mindfulness allows us to change the relationship with our self and with our universe by developing attributes such as non-judging, acceptance, patience, curiosity, non-striving, trust and kindness towards all parts of yourself. This includes the parts of you that you don’t like.
Let’s have a closer look at these attributes or attitudes starting with non-judging. Non-judging means we become like an objective or independent observer of our experience, where we don’t judge our experience as being good or bad, we just accept what is going on as it is, with a sense of openness and we stay balanced.
A lot of this judgement happens subconsciously and habitually by us automatically reacting to our experience, which gets us out of balance. There is a part of your brain called the amygdala which can subconsciously form judgements of your life experience without you being consciously aware. These automatic judgements and habitual reactions can cause you a lot of stress. As you develop your mindfulness “muscle” these judgements will become conscious to you, which allows you to then let them go without engaging with them. It allows you to see and recognise your fears, stories and reactions. It allows you to respond instead react to the situation.
When you observe your mind judging, you don’t have to try and stop it from judging. Mindfulness means you just become aware of the judging. Having the awareness with an attitude of curiosity and kindness is all that is required. If you judge the judging then you experience a busy mind along with limiting emotions because you get caught up in your own story.
Judgements and criticism are based on beliefs. They show us how we perceive our world, based on past experiences. As we progress on the Know Thyself Program, it allows us to become aware of our limited beliefs so that we can then transform them to empowering ones. This means over time we will have less judgements arising.
Judgement or commentary is the inner voice describing what’s going on. For example when watching a football match on TV, there is the match you see on the screen and there is the match you hear described by the commentator. The problem is that commentary is often biased, whether it’s watching sport on TV or whether it’s in your head. You will notice that you are much closer to the truth when you observe without commentary or judgement.
As an example, while you’re observing your breath, you could find your mind saying “This is boring!” or “Am I doing this right?” or “This isn’t working!”. These are judgements that come up in your mind as thoughts. You need to recognise them as judgmental thinking and remind yourself that the practice of mindfulness involves suspending judgement and just observing what comes up without buying into the thought, without believing it and acting on it. As we relax our judgement it allows more space for the more subtle, positive qualities to enter.
Over time as you practice this skill during your meditation, you will be able to become conscious of judgmental thinking during the course of your day.
The funny thing about acceptance is that you have to first accept yourself as you are before you can change.
Acceptance is seeing things as they actually are in the present moment. So whatever there is right now in your life, can it be any other way than what it is right now?” For example if right now you have a head ache, is there any way you cannot have a headache right now, in this moment? Sure in a few moments your headache could be gone or it could be the same or it could be worse. But right now if you have a headache, acceptance means to understand that this moment is inevitable and it cannot be changed.
The present moment is inevitable and it cannot be any other way than what it is right now. Sure in a few moments time there could be a million different possibilities of the situation, but what is here right now is inevitable and it cannot be any other way right now.
Whether it is diagnosis of a serious illness or a loved one passing away. Often acceptance is only reached after we have gone through emotion filled periods of denial. This is a natural process of healing for major traumas in our life. We have to keep in mind though, that while we are resisting and denying what is already fact, then we are not moving on and healing ourselves.
Now is the only time you have for anything. You have to accept yourself as you are and accept the situation as it is, before you can change. Whether it’s a headache, anxiety, a bad diagnosis or the passing of a loved one. The alternative is to waste a lot of energy denying and resisting what is already fact. Trying to force a situation to be the way you want it to be only creates more tension and leaves less energy for healing and transforming.
When you start thinking this way (acceptance), you are able to remain balanced and calm. This then allows for more effective and creative action rather than automatically reacting with an emotional response. If we attach to something that is impermanent or beyond our control, then it’s just going to cause us to suffer and limit our ability for effective action.
With acceptance it does not mean that you have to like everything or be satisfied with how things are right now or tolerate injustice. It just means you have come around to a willingness to see things how they are right now, understanding that everything is changing and impermanent. This will help provide a more clear headed, calm response to the situation rather than a reaction based on fears and prejudices.
When we meditate, we cultivate acceptance by taking each moment as it comes and being with it fully as it is. Being open to whatever you are feeling, thinking, seeing, smelling, tasting or hearing and accepting it, because it is here in this moment. If we have our awareness on our breath during meditation and we get caught up in a thought, then practicing acceptance means acknowledging and accepting that our awareness has wondered off. This allows the mind to then return back to the breath, rather than reacting, judging ourselves and creating tension because the mind has wondered off.
We will look at the rest of the attributes of mindfulness in the next blog. If you’re interested in developing your mindfulness ability, I run mindfulness meditation classes from the Perth Hills Mindfulness Space in Darlington on Wednesdays from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm. Check out www.PerthHillsMindfulnessSpace.com.au for details. If you would like to try guided mindfulness meditation from home, just send me an email at PerthHillsMindfulnessSpace@gmail.com and I will happily forward you a guided meditation free of charge. Let me know if you have any questions and I wish you all the best in your mindfulness practice.
Brahmavamso Ajahn (2003) The Basic Method of Meditation. Perth, Western Australia: Optima Press.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2012) Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the present Moment – and your life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Mischke Reeds, Manuela. (2015) 8 Keys to Practising Mindfulness: Practical Strategies for Emotional Health and Well-Being. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Author: GABRIEL PERGAMALIS
About Gabriel Pergamalis
Gabriel Pergamalis is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Self-Mastery Coach at the Perth Hills Mindfulness Space. He is passionate about helping people empower themselves to quieten their mind, tame their emotions and transform their limiting beliefs. He understands how the mind works, especially the influence of the subconscious mind. He is constantly upgrading his level of training to bring his clients the most simple, yet effective techniques to develop mindfulness, connect with their true self and overcome conditioning of the subconscious mind.
For more information on Gabriel’s “Know Thyself Program” visit the SELF MASTERY COACHING PAGE.
You can download Chapter 1 of the program for free including a 30 minute guided mindfulness meditation by Gabriel.