Ross felt perfectly normal one morning. After all, it was the beginning of summer and the fading spring season had painted the landscape around his office with greenery and colorful flowers. Turning his attention from the trees outside to his smartphone, Ross glanced across a posting on social media by two of his close friends. It was a picture of them having a good time at one of his favorite places. He felt a surge of emotions, a sudden twinge in his heart.
Before he even realized it, his thumbs hammered a sarcastic comment on their posts (the danger of instant electronic communication) and was beset with feelings of shame soon after. His “critic” had now shifted from his friends onto himself. And like a catchy tune that plays on and on in your head without any conscious control, he was riddled with self-critical thoughts for the rest of the day.
On the other side of the city, Dorothy, was happily packing lunch for her husband of 20 years when she became aware of a text message beeping on his cell phone, which he had left behind on the dining table. She noticed a message from his secretary, a lively young woman. It struck a tone that seemed to Dorothy more personal than professional. She saw her husband off after lunch with a hidden heartbreak. But all through the day, she was seized with anxiety, fueled by imagining her husband’s extramarital relationship.
The stories of Ross and Dorothy play out in all our lives, with varying scripts and intensities and we may have found ourselves asking these questions: Why is it so hard to free ourselves from these states of minds? What is the nature of these emotional states we find ourselves stuck in?
Could our minds be dis-eased too?
For the human brain to undergo physiological and psychological evolution, it is natural to feel pain, especially when we inflict it on others. As stated by neurologist V. S. Ramachandran in his book
Tell-Tale Brain, awareness of our actions and mental patterns causes many of us to shift the conflicting attention from without to within. Our minds are then “dis-eased” by this inner conflict or possessed by a self-judgmental and raging inner critic. In modern and psychological definitions these are referred to as stress, anxiety, depression, and other states which obscure the heart and mind’s openness.
Is having hope the only hope?
Many of us have found comfort in different approaches from psychology, spirituality and self-help for dealing with such inner challenges. Through these, we seek a permanent state of mind where we never again have to deal with these mental patterns. It is the ground where “having hope” becomes your only hope.
But if the nature of your faith is propelled by your own glimpses of freedom or through your own unfolding realization, then you maybe open to seeing that the heart of all our problems lies in the very seeking state of mind (in the present) which looks to the future for a permanent state of freedom and joy.
Can we learn to look at life unmasked, without attempting to manipulate it?
Yes, we can! And when we can shift our perspective in such a way, we even step out of any spiritual or philosophical concepts that we have subscribed to and move toward realizing our own solo path. As long as we are committed to this kind of moment-to-moment discovering of inner freedom, we can see for ourselves that Free Mind is not to be found elsewhere, but right where we are and right within the situation we are faced with. This is what the true practice of mindfulness enables.
It is only then that we are able to truly find inner freedom, no matter what our life situation may be and no matter what state of mind we find ourselves stuck in.
C G Mayya is the author of Discover Your Free Mind and has trained for over 15 years in monasteries of different traditions, both in the East and the West. He has been involved with several researches with top US Universities on the effect of meditation and mindfulness.