Looking at the world around us, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right.
Corruption at the highest levels. Wars. Famine. Pollution. Poverty. Environmental destruction. The annihilation of complete species. Perhaps even our own demise looms on the horizon… Sometimes it’s overwhelming. To the point where I want to shout: “What can I do!? I’m just one in seven billion!!”
But we can do something about it. Something very powerful.
Because the world is a reflection of our collective state of mind and, what isn’t obvious, is the fact that these issues are all connected. They’re not separate problems. They’re symptoms of a single underlying cause.
And that’s something that we can all alleviate. Within ourselves.
We’ve all heard the saying about the mind being a tool that can create incredible things. However, if the tool isn’t used properly, it can run amok and create havoc.
But we all secretly believe that: “Surely that saying only applies to mad dictators who commit genocide. Our minds can’t be that bad. We’re doing fine. Right?”
Well… when I started looking for relief from the general unhappiness I’d been living with, I went to see a therapist. He suggested that, amongst other things, I try some meditation. But I didn’t really know what meditation was. “It’s simple”, he told me. “To start with, just sit down, close your eyes and count your breaths. Breathe. One. Breathe. Two. Breathe. Three… And so forth and so forth…”
I went home and tried it. And something happened.
I remember counting my breaths to about twenty. After that I don’t remember exactly how much time passed. It could have been seconds or minutes, but some moments later I caught myself thinking about something completely unrelated to breathing or counting. I remember thinking: “How on earth did I get to this thought?!”
But I couldn’t remember.
Without being aware of it I’d started thinking about so many other things that, at that moment when I finally caught myself being caught up in thought, I could not even remember how I had arrived at that last thought.
If I had been so unaware of my thoughts it can only mean one thing: that that entire sequence of thought was involuntary.
None of those thoughts were by choice.
My thoughts had digressed to the point where I’d completely lost count of my breaths and I’d even forgotten that I was counting breaths to begin with.
Initially the thoughts may have been connected to something that was of some concern, besides my breathing, like an assignment due for tomorrow, or something like that. But thought after thought descended into irrelevance, until my mind had carried me so far away from that moment, that I had even lost my sense of awareness. I was not aware of my own thoughts, not until I finally caught myself being caught up in thought.
This simple exercise brought me to an awakening.
It’s now been several years since that day. In general I am much more at peace now.
But that one exercise definitely did not enlighten me. I’ve struggled with many things over the past several years and some days I still struggle to find a moment of peace within myself.
That simple exercise did however introduce me to the nature of the mental disorder running this planet into ruin.
We are not in control of what we think.
We suffer from a disorder that has clogged our minds with endless involuntary thought. Thoughts that are, at best, irrelevant to what’s really important. And, at worst, utterly destructive.
It’s this mental disorder that’s the cause of all our problems.
“How?” you may ask. “How has unchecked thoughts created this crazy world? Sure, we don’t control our minds, but why would unchecked thoughts create this disaster, as opposed to something else more benign?”
Because the mind is a tool. And every tool has a purpose.
The purpose of the mind is survival. The mind developed to think of smart ways to ensure that we do not die prematurely. Which is how we came to dominate the planet above all other animals.
Which means that all the unchecked thoughts that are milling around in my mind is centred around me and mine. Unchecked self-centred thought. Endless thinking, me, me, me, me and more me.
Collectively we haven’t caught ourselves being caught up in thinking. So, without realising it, we believe that the natural world and other people revolve around us.
And we live with a constant sense of dissatisfaction. Because the mind is constantly looking for certainty of survival in a world that is inherently uncertain. A constant sense of dissatisfaction that’s constantly creating more, more and more. Forever trying, unsuccessfully, to satisfy an insatiable need.
A tool is also always created to do something specific. And when any tool is used to perform a task for which it wasn’t designed, the result is less than ideal.
While the mind was initially developed for survival, our survival has, in the modern world of comforts, become less of an issue. The mind thus assumed a new purpose. The survival of itself. More than physical survival, these days most people are, at the behest of their minds, engaged in a fight to preserve and strengthen their own thoughts and beliefs.
This is why thoughts come involuntarily, because the mind is generating thoughts to serve its own agenda. It is no longer primarily concerned with you and your physical survival, as there’s not much need for that. We’re no longer living in caves running away from predators.
The mind is now fighting instead for the survival of what it thinks of itself. Ideas, opinions, beliefs. Our identities.
This is the kind of world you get where the vast majority of creators are walking around with self-centred thoughts fighting for survival against others’ self centred thoughts.
“You said what!? How dare you!? I can’t tolerate this!”
And it affects all of us.
If you don’t believe me, do the exercise. Sit down, count your breaths, and you’ll see how the mind really works. Without your consent.
Seeing the problem for what it is, that’s working on the solution.
Not necessarily by counting breaths. But by becoming acutely aware of the fact that unchecked and involuntary thoughts are running amok within our minds. Ruining our world from within.
By catching ourselves being caught up in thought, as often as possible, we bring about the realisation that there is an awareness within us that exists independent of those thoughts.
How else could we catch ourselves thinking? If we are aware of our own thoughts it can only mean one thing: our awareness exists prior to thought.
Awareness is primary. Thoughts are secondary.
And if the problem is unchecked thought, then the solution must be that which brings thought into check.
Awareness of thought.