“Mind your own business. Let the thoughts come and go as they please. Without a place to land, they are unable to touch your peace.”
The following is an excerpt from my latest book “Help! I Can’t Stop Thinking.”
The Wretched Red Cushion
It was 2004. I was on day three of a six-month meditation retreat, and my turbulent and restless mind was driving me nuts.
The prospect of sitting on this wretched cushion for another five minutes (let alone six months) was freaking me out.
“What on earth have I let myself in for? Coming here was a big mistake. I want to go home.”
My restless monkey mind was more like King Kong on steroids.
Such was my desperation to leave, I had even checked out the food delivery van parked in the courtyard outside the meditation hall, wondering whether I might be able to cling onto the underside to make my escape.
“No,” a second, more conciliatory voice chipped in. “Remember how messed up you were before you arrived. And all the strange synchronicities that led you here in the first place”
And besides, where would I go? Wherever I went, my restless mind would go with me. There WAS no escape.”
As I sat there, my mind spinning out on overdrive, I knew I needed help.
I stood up and, walking sheepishly through the rows of (to my mind) serene-faced fellow novices perched on their bright red cushions, approached the head monk.
“I’m really struggling here. I need to talk,” I whispered, so as not to disturb the others.
The conversation that ensued remains etched in my mind to this day.
It went something like this:
“What’s the problem?” he asked with a compassionate look.
“I can’t stop thinking,” I replied.
“No, you can’t,” he smiled.
I was taken aback. It wasn’t the reply I was expecting.
“Nobody can,” he added.
“Having a crazy, restless, messed up mind is the human condition. Everybody has one.“
“But I’m going nuts. My mind is driving me crazy,” I pleaded.
And then he continued:
“What the mind gets up to needn’t be any of your business. You’re suffering because you’re open for business. You need to learn to shut up shop.”
“Relax, be alert, focus on your breath. Let the thoughts come and go. Don’t follow them. Stay with the breath. You’re not the mind. Leave it in peace to do its thing and it will leave you in peace to do yours. The mind can only trouble you if you entertain it—if you’re open for business.”
Having a crazy, restless, messed up mind is the human condition. Everybody has one.”
That’s quite a statement!
We all tend to see ourselves as special cases.
We see our crazy, screwed up, restless patterns as evidence there’s ‘something wrong’ with us, rather than just being part and parcel of the human condition.
Nobody is quite as screwed up as I am, right?
If people only knew the nonsense that goes on inside my head, I’d have no friends at all, right?
Over the following six-months, many of my long-held beliefs about the nature of the mind and the causes of suffering crumbled away and I discovered a peace far beyond anything I had even known was possible.
When I first showed up at the retreat centre, I was riddled with anxiety, restlessness, low moods and self-criticism.
I believed that finding peace (if it were even possible, which I doubted) would be a monumental task, a Herculean effort requiring a complete overhaul of my broken and messed up mind.
Little did I know then that the solution would be far, far simpler than that— so simple in fact that pretty much everyone overlooks it.
Here are some of the key points I came to understand:
- Having a restless mind is an unavoidable part of being human. Don’t expect anything else. And don’t beat yourself up over it.
- We don’t suffer because the mind is restless. We suffer because we believe it shouldn’t be.
- Your thoughts don’t cause you to suffer. Identification with thoughts is the real issue.
- The mind is only a small part of who you are.
- Peace of mind is an illusion because restlessness is the nature of mind. Disturbance and mind are one and the same thing. Making peace WITH the mind is the way to go.
- Peace is your true nature. You don’t need to change or fix anything in order to experience it—just recognise what’s always been there.
- There’s no distance between you and peace (no matter how it appears to the mind). It’s available to every one of us in every moment.
- What’s going on in the mind makes no difference at all to your true self, which is always at peace.
Over time, I began to grasp and apply what my teacher meant by shutting up shop and minding your own business.
I’ll explain all of this in detail later in the book.
I learned that the key to experiencing ongoing contentment is to leave the mind in peace to do it’s crazy, messed up dance—in other words, to mind your own business.
When you accept that restlessness and agitation is simply the nature of the mind and don’t expect it to be otherwise, there’s no problem.
It’s just part of what’s happening in the ever-changing moment.
Full of profound insights you can apply straight away, “Help! I Can’t Stop Thinking” goes on to present in detail everything I learned about how to live in harmony with your thoughts and plenty more that I’ve discovered in the 18 years since then.
The insights I share in the book outline the direct path to becoming free from the mind and experiencing for yourself the deep, unshakeable peace of your true nature.
The book is available in 2 formats:
- the .pdf alone
- or the .pdf with an audiobook version and 9 supplementary guided meditations. The meditations will give you a direct experience of the truth that the teachings point towards.
Click on the link below to find out more.
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