One of the main reasons why people think so much is that they believe the story in their mind is real. Well, it isn’t! Your stories about your past, your current circumstances and future only exist in your mind, not in reality. And once you fully get this, you can more confidently release your grasp on the need to think all the time, start to take your mind less seriously and laugh your way to freedom.
My Overactive Imagination
When I was a child I snuck into the television room late one evening and watched the movie Jaws. It scared me to death! For weeks afterwards I couldn’t sleep; I was convinced that the big shark from the movie was hiding in my bedroom wardrobe, waiting for me to go to sleep before it came out to eat me! Now, looking back on it I can’t help but laugh at the thought of a giant fish living in my wardrobe, but it felt so real at the time; I genuinely couldn’t sleep for the angst and apprehension.
When my parents told me the shark in my wardrobe wasn’t real, it was just my imagination, I didn’t believe them because it felt so real. But they spoke the truth and gave me one of the most important lessons of my life. I now know that my problems exist mainly in my mind, in either my imagined past or future, but rarely, if ever, in the real world of this moment.
What if much of the emotional stress negatively impacting on your health and peace of mind is very similar to the shark in the wardrobe? What if, although the problems feel real, they exist more in your imagination than in reality?
The Light Relief From Seeing The Light
Words cannot describe the relief that came to me the day I discovered that my memories of the past, however bad or sad they may be, were only accessible now via my imagination. The same goes for my fears of the future; for years I’d quite literally been scared by my shadow, my imagination. The past and future were both nothing more than imagined stories in my mind.
Unfortunately, millions of people live their entire lives not recognizing this simple truth. They go through their days going over their past or pre-playing future scenarios in their mind, again and again and again, suffering from unnecessary stress, ill-health and struggle in the process, simply because they are in their heads and thinking about the past and future, missing the peace of the present moment.
Your Body Doesn’t Know The Difference
Numerous scientific studies have now discovered that, biochemically speaking, your body cannot tell the difference between what is happening in the real world and what is just in your mind. What this means is that, even if you are only thinking about a stressful situation, your body still experiences the same negative physical reactions as it would if these events were actually happening in reality.
The implications of these findings are hugely significant when it comes to self-healing and serenity. Not only does it explain why so many people on the planet are experiencing physical problems, it also validates the importance of learning how to think less and be more present.
Now I appreciate this might be a bit hard to swallow at first, especially if your problems feel real and appear to be happening now. But for the sake of your health and happiness, I invite you to notice that much of the stress and unease you experience is caused by thinking too much about the past and future.
Waking Up From The Maya Nightmare
In ancient teachings, the ‘story’ that I’ve been discussing is often referred to as the ‘maya’, which in Sanskrit means ‘illusion’ or ‘dream’. To be honest though, for some the maya is more of a nightmare! It is especially so if a person unwittingly puts all of their attention on the endless supply of problems that the mind can invent.
Most of the problems that you think about on a daily basis exist in your mind but not in the reality of this present moment. The more present you become, the less you engage in thoughts about life and the more you experience the fullness of life itself. You come to see that the story in your mind is always about the past and the future, and that by putting your attention on your temporary, time-based thoughts and emotions, you neglect the beauty and perfection of the present moment.
Ill-health may continue, money might be short this month and someone somewhere might have decided they don’t like you. Nevertheless, these things only become a problem when you become less present by engaging in judgemental thinking about them.
This Moment is All That's Happening Right Now
I invite you to start to notice that this moment, right now, is happening. You are reading this page and everything about this moment is actually OK. It might even be better than just OK! You may be clothed and fed, sitting comfortably and enjoying the experience of reading this word. Become super-attentive to this moment and you may begin to notice that there is a quiet peace present within you.
As you put your attention on this moment, you will find that to start thinking about any problems you have to take attention away from it. Thinking is often an unconscious action, and many people are firmly in the habit of putting their attention on thoughts about the past and future. But if you play with being super-attentive to now, you will notice the dance that happens between this moment and the stories happening in your mind.
One of the most common objections to letting go of the story is that it can feel as if you’re denying reality. Thinking about your problems can make them feel very real and to ignore them can feel like burying your head in the sand.
However, this objection depends on your definition of reality. I would suggest that reality is, literally, what’s real: and what’s real is what’s happening right now. Everything beyond the immediate experience of right now is made up by your mind. To access the past or future you have to engage your imagination. By this rationale, to start thinking about the past and future is to deny what’s real right now.
I do not mean that you should become passive and stop taking proactive steps to improve situations that are causing you concern. What I mean by ‘not thinking’ is that you don’t think too much about the things you perceive as problems. Negative thinking only invests energy in what you don’t want and makes you more prone to continue recreating these things.
By reducing the amount of thinking you’re doing you can actually free up this energy and significantly improve your body and your life. Not only that, but you will also get to wake up and live in truth, as opposed to existing in your only relatively true mind-made version of reality.
GAME: Story vs Reality
In your journal, write down a problem that you are currently dealing with. This problem could relate to a relationship, your health, your finances or anything else. Then take a few moments to actively think about the problem in your mind.
After about one minute of thinking about the story, answer these questions:
- Where am I right now?
- What colours can I see right now?
- What sounds can I hear right now?
- What am I physically touching right now?
- Is this problem happening right now?
- What is it like if I notice this moment is happening?
Story vs Reality Example
THE STORY: What is the problem? I’m going through a relationship break-up. The person I’m in love with has decided they don’t want to be with me and I am feeling sad and alone without them in my life.
THE REALITY: Where am I right now? I am currently sitting on a chair in my garden.
What colours can I see right now? I can see green trees moving in the breeze and blue sky overhead with some clouds floating by.
What sounds can I hear right now? I can hear birds singing. I can hear the buzz of traffic in the distance. There is also silence happening.
What am I physically touching right now? My bottom is pressing against the chair that I’m sitting on. I’m holding my pen and I can feel the journal that my hand is resting upon.
Is the problem happening right now? No, my ex-partner is not here with me now and the argument was only continuing to happen in my mind.
What is it like to notice this moment is happening? This moment is bright, clear, fresh, still, full of potential and peaceful.
You Are Missing the Present When Focused on a Problem
You can see that you have a choice: you can put your attention on the mind-made dream, or on living reality.
Using this exercise can help you to see that whenever you are thinking about a problem, you are missing the present moment. Your attention is not on all of the colours, sounds or physical sensations, but instead is on the negative story in your mind. The implications of this can be enormous!
As you play with this exercise, you will probably notice that your mind attempts to convince you that you need to start thinking about the problem so that you can figure out a solution. However, if you continue to be brave by being present, you might find that letting go of problem-based thinking often allows things to improve, in a very effortless and expansive way. You will be more gentle, loving and kind in your actions and your new way of being will be reflected in your external life circumstances.
Move Beyond Problems For Good
Just because I’m saying that life can be problem-free, I don’t mean that it won’t challenge you. on the contrary, in my experience life continues to includes challenges; but as I’ve let go of my personal story, my relationship with life has improved massively.
It is challenging, but I know that ultimately nothing is wrong and everything that happens helps me to wake up from the illusion and enjoy more peace, love and freedom.
©2012 by Sandy C. Newbigging.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com.
Thunk!: How to Think Less for Serenity and Success
by Sandy C. Newbigging.
More books by Sandy D. Newbigging.
About the Author
Sandy C. Newbigging is a meditation teacher and the creator of the Mind Detox and Mind Calm methods. He is the author of several books, including Life-Changing Weight Loss, Life Detox, New Beginnings, Peace for Life, and Thunk! His work has been seen on Discovery Health Channel and he is a regular writer for Huffington Post and Yoga Magazine. Recently commended by the Federation of Holistic Therapists as ‘Tutor of the Year’, he has clinics in the UK, runs residential retreats internationally and trains Practitioners via his Mind Detox Academy. Visit his website at http://www.sandynewbigging.com/
Watch a video with Sandy: The Silent Solution to Any Problem