You suffer, not because the mind is restless, but because you believe it shouldn’t be.
Everybody has a restless mind. Everyone, without exception.
It couldn’t be any other way.
The Indian spiritual teacher, Nisargadatta sums up the nature of the mind in the following statement:
“There is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance; restlessness itself is mind.”
The mind IS restlessness.
Not only is there nothing ‘wrong’ with the mind being restless, chaotic, messed up. It couldn’t be any other way. Mind means disturbance.
Expecting the mind to be still and peaceful is like expecting the grass to be pink or expecting water to be dry.
Here’s the key point. Having a restless mind isn’t the main issue.
We suffer because we believe there’s something wrong with the way the mind is.
You suffer, not because the mind is restless, but because you believe it shouldn’t be
Seeing this can be life-changing.
Most people believe they need to fix or change the mind in order to experience peace.
I recently had a coaching client, let’s call her Mary, who had been trying to ‘fix’ what she perceived to be her ‘broken’ mind for years.
Like myself in the past, she had spent years going to therapy, reading every self-help book she could get her hands on, attending every seminar and workshop… all because she believed the mind needed to be a certain way in order to experience peace.
And like myself, she had never considered the possibility that the mind itself is not the problem, rather the way we relate to it.
When she grasped the concept of making peace WITH her restless mind, her experience was transformed in an instant.
She saw clearly that peace is available right now… no matter what is going on in the mind.
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Peace of Mind vs Peace WITH Mind
As Nisargadatta said, “There is no such thing as peace of mind. Mind means disturbance. Restlessness itself is mind.”
If you suffer from fear, anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem, you will know how hard it is to shake these thoughts off, let alone transform them into still, quiet, peaceful thoughts.
You could literally spend the rest of your life waiting for peace to happen. And many people do.
There is another, far simpler way that requires no fixing and no time.
Make peace with the fact that the mind is restless. Expect it to be restless, chaotic, neurotic, anxious.
See that the mind is just being its restless self. There is nothing wrong… unless you believe there is.
You will experience peace to the degree that you are able to accept the mind just as it is—to leave it in peace to do its crazy dance.
Here’s a quote from my book Kick The Thinking Habit which you can download for FREE below.
“Don’t be concerned about the thoughts that come and go. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. Leave the mind in peace to do its dance, and it will leave you in peace to do yours. Don’t touch it at all, and you will remain untouched by it.”
Click on the link below to download your FREE copy.
Don’t Fire The Second Arrow
The Buddhists use the expression ‘second arrow’ to describe how most people unconsciously react to challenging thoughts.
Let’s use anxiety as an example.
An anxious thought/feeling appears (by itself) in your awareness.
The first arrow is self-arising. You don’t choose it.
The anxious thought then produces an automatic unconscious reaction.
“This is bad. This is wrong. I shouldn’t be feeling this. There’s something wrong with me. I need to get rid of it. I can’t live like this. I’m a bad person.”
This is second arrow.
The vast majority of our suffering comes, not from the original thought but from the subsequent commentary ABOUT it.
Imagine if you were to welcome the thought or feeling into your experience instead—recognising that it is just the mind doing its thing, recognising that it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with YOU.
This is what is meant by making peace WITH the mind.
It may still feel unpleasant… but when you relax and subtract the notion that there’s something ‘wrong’, most of the suffering vanishes.
This is what the Buddhists mean by “pain is inevitable. suffering is optional.”
The mind is restless, neurotic, crazy… and that’s OK, even if it doesn’t feel good.
The Best Way To Tame An Angry Bull
This is one of my favourite analogies for dealing with a restless and troublesome mind.
Let’s say you find yourself confined in a small space with an angry bull, kicking and snorting… not unlike being trapped inside your head with a restless and neurotic mind.
Here’s the worst thing you can do in this scenario.
You can try to fight him—to force him into a tiny enclosure and tie him up. The more you fight and resist him, the angrier and more unmanageable he becomes.
So, what’s the best solution?
Set him free. Give him a huge, open field to run around in. Meeting with no resistance, he will quickly run out of steam and settle down. Leave him alone for 5 minutes and he’ll be happily grazing.
So how does this apply to the restless mind?
Let it be restless. Don’t resist it. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to control it.
Let it run free in the vast field of your awareness. Meeting no resistance there, it will soon settle down.
And even if it doesn’t, in the absence of judgement, it’s OK for it to be there.
It is far better to encounter a bull in a vast, open space than in a tight, confined one. And it’s the same with the mind.
I remember a time when my thoughts were so intense, they felt like they were glued to my face like a tight ski-mask. Maybe you can relate?
There was no space between me and the thoughts. Like the bull in the small enclosure, they took up all the space.
As you learn more and more to step back and let the mind do its thing, without resistance, without getting involved—you begin to meet your thoughts in a larger arena.
You realise that the mind’s little dramas only take up a small space in the totality of who you are.
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