When the mind grips

mind's grip

This week, I’ve had a fly on the wall view into obsession, and the unrelenting grip of the mind.

You see, my mind is normally pretty calm, it gets a bit agitated from time to time, but for the most part we coexist quite peacefully.

People in my hostel? Not so much.

There was this guy who was obsessed with money; how much he made back home, how much he’d make working here in Bali, how his company isn’t nice enough to him, and how wronged he feels in general. He told me the same story a good three times, and seemed to share it with everyone he spoke to.

Even when he wasn’t talking about his money situation, he couldn’t listen and seemed incapable of asking questions. Round in his me-loop he went.

Then there was a woman who was obsessed with a guy she’d met a few days before. She spent quite literally her day waiting for him; not eating because she was going to eat with him, not going to the beach because she was waiting for, staying at a bar alone because she was waiting for him.

She spent the whole day on her phone texting him, trying to work out what he was doing (I don’t think he knew what he was doing!) and was gripped by this idea that she should be with him. All she could talk about was what she had gleaned of his logistics. And around in her me-loop she went.

And, whilst this doesn’t happen to me very often, I remember doing a weird diet while I was a t university and getting obsessed! It was one of those ones where you only had milkshakes, apart from a chocolatey bar you were allowed as a treat.

Oh my God did I get obsessed with those bars. What flavour would I have, when would I have it, was it ok to have all of them now and none later? My big mind that was used to discussing Aristotle and Nietzsche was now hooked on diet bars. I’m sure that was both thrilling and interesting for everyone around me! All I could think or talk about were these bars. And around in my me-loop I went.

I really don’t say any of this to criticise, but to draw attention to the churning of our minds, and how they can grip.

And, in being internally focused and gripped by this one thing, we miss life! We miss beautiful sunsets, we miss people we’d really get on with, we miss going to the beach, we miss experiences that don’t fit into our gripped idea of what the world should look like.

To me, the mind often feels more like a movement, more than a solid thing in its own right.

It’s a movement that constantly refers back to itself. It’s almost as if the mind senses it isn’t really a ‘thing’ and that’s what it’s constantly searching to discover what it is, and bring a situation back to itself.

Am I good enough? Am I loveable? Is it how I want it? Will he do what I want? Will I get I what I want? Do I even exist?

Once we’re gripped, it seems so real. So very real.

But seeing someone caught in their own grip is a great reminder that theirs isn’t real, neither is mine and neither is yours.

If you recognise what I’m talking about, and are happy to share, what’s your mind’s favourite hook? Is there a topic or a line that it often goes to?

Confession – I’m an attention whore

I was sitting on my bed minding my own business, when it suddenly dawned on me.

I am an attention whore.

Not in the sense that I will do anything for attention, but in the sense that I so often give my attention away when it’s not warranted, deserved or earned.

I wrap people up in my attention, hold them gently and nicely, and bring them out. Make them feel good, ask them questions they want to answer. And this is a very nice thing to do.

But it’s not always a good use of my attention, focus or resources. It means I give away arguably one of the most, if not the most, valuable resources I have – my attention – for a very low price.

That price can be as low as not feeling like the other person is uncomfortable, or not sitting in a potentially awkward silence.

And I’m guessing I’m not the only one who does this, perhaps you do too?

Do you give your attention away to people that you would really rather not focus on. Maybe you even give away your best, most present attention to people who have no way to appreciate the gift you’re giving them, and don’t do anything with it.

It might feel like we don’t get anything back when we do this, as if it’s some altruistic, saint-like move, but I think we do.

We get to feel less uncomfortable.

We get to avoid telling the truth.

We get to not make a scene.

We get to not sit there in absolute silence, or walk away, and be honest about what’s actually happening.

A small bit of payback, perhaps, but there’s always something in it for us or else we wouldn’t do it.

I've got a challenge

So, my challenge – and I’d like to invite you to join me – is to not give my attention to the lowest, most awkward bidder.

To save my attention for me, and things and people I actively want to spend it on.

And – this is the scariest and most exciting part – to be honest.

Bored of conversation? What might happened if we said as much?

Feel like you want to leave a situation? Why not give it a go?

Nothing coming back from your interlocutor? Sit in silence and you enjoy your own company.

A Truer Expression

Recently I’ve been thinking about where things come from, and the distortions that take place by the time we become aware of them. The deep yearnings of our soul start deep underwater, and by the time they have traveled the ocean and are expressed as a fleeting wave, the initial seed that started them can get lost or forgotten.

Your deepest desires are pointing you back to yourself; their shallow, safe or contorted expression is not.

I wonder how much more fulfilling life be if we went to the heart of the yearning, the deepest, truest, most tender and precious yearning, rather than the superficial, quick to be sedated and quick to want again expression?

Sometimes what we think of as our flaws, are actually a misunderstanding of a deeper calling, a misplacement of what we are.

Avanti is freakishly good at making raw chocolate. She started after getting upset at how much I was paying for these little bars of overpriced raw choc, and decided she could do it better.

A few years, hundreds of bars of chocolate, and loads of “oh my God this is the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted” later, she is definitely in tune with the spirit of cacao.

Which is ironic, because as a child Avanti was a massive chocoholic, stopping in almost every shop to buy a bar to fill the empty hole where she would’ve expected to find love.

Avanti's Choc

Chocolate clearly spoke to her (and she spoke back), but little did little Avanti know that cacao, not Cadbury’s, was where it was at, and that her movement towards chocolate actually had a truer, deeper expression. And had she looked even deeper than that, she might have found that even the spirit of cacao was a poor substitute for the love she was missing.

My version of this would be smoking. I love smoking, but on reflection it wasn’t the nicotine that did it for me, it was the focus on the breath. The inhale, hold, exhale. The taking a few minutes to be with yourself and breathe.

I’ve since found that pranayama breathing is a truer (and healthier) expression of this for me. I knew that I enjoyed focusing on my breath, but for a long time didn’t know there was a way to do that without a cigarette. And taking this a step deeper, bringing my focus to my breath, helps me to connect with my spirit. So for me, it turns out that smoking was actually an expression of my desire to connect with myself.

Which makes me wonder, what might your truer expression be?

If you traced back a need,or compulsion, to it’s truest, most sacred origins, what might it look like from there?

We’ve all been in a situation where what we wanted to say isn’t quite what came out of our mouths, and I’m sure we’ve all been tricked by the classic feeling hungry when you’re actually thirsty thing our bodies do, or even more annoying craving sugar when we actually have a mineral deficiency, so chances are you’ve had the experience of what’s really going on not being what’s expressed. And this is just scratching the surface.

If you look at your life through the lens of noticing where your desires spring from, what might you find?

Gold Heart

Maybe a desire for a relationship is actually a yearning for union with the divine.

Could an addiction actually be pointing towards intense feelings of separation that you’ll do anything to stem?

Perhaps you notice yourself trying to manipulate your partner, and know deep down that your skills of seduction would be better used to encourage them to be all they can be, rather than coercing them into being what you want them to be.

Or maybe your compulsion to zone out and be mindless has its origins in a movement towards primordial peace and Nothingness.

If there is a deeper, truer expression to your wants and habits, then it’s the truer expression that you’ll want to be focussing on.

Even if you were to meet all your shallow desires, the truer ones would still be there. You’d find that the new partner doesn’t bring divine union, and only reminds you of its absence. The addiction doesn’t actually ease the pain of separation, but increases it. Manipulating your way to what you want is ultimately unfulfilling and that zoning out has nothing on zoning in.

This is by no means a definitive answer, it’s an invitation to look again and to hold yourself to a higher and truer standard.

It’s okay to want the things you want, but it will be more fulfilling if you’re true about what you really, really want. Then you can go for what your heart truly desires, not the distorted reflection of your deepest yearning.

It’s almost too painful and scary to want what we really want. Wanting a partner, or a holiday, or a drink is known and is socially acceptable. There’s a safety to that. Tell someone you want a relationship and they’ll nod their heads knowingly. They can relate.

Tell them you want union with the divine, to know yourself as The One through another, chances are they’ll nod their politely as their eyes glaze over.

Do you dare to want what you really and truly want? What your heart, guts and soul want? Do you dare to trace back the wave to its origins deep in the ocean and go from there?

From Cadbury’s to the spirit of cacao, and from there to the deepest love, what’s your truest expression?