Relating to Your Mind

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When we learn how to relate to our minds, we can choose how to react to any thought, instead of having our old, habitual, automatic reaction to that thought.

— David Hart
Three-Minute Meditator

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Three-Minute Meditator

From The New Three-Minute Meditator
by David Hart

When we learn to look at the process of our thinking, to watch our thoughts, we realize that they are not us, any more than a rock, a book, or anything else we can see outside ourselves is us. Relating to your mind means mentally stepping back to watch exactly what your mind is doing, without getting hung up in the content of any particular thought.

It means being able to notice a fearful thought and say, "Ah, there is a fearful thought," without automatically reacting by becoming fearful. It means being able to notice a lustful thought and saying, "Ah, there is a lustful thought," without automatically acting or becoming consumed with desire and/or guilt.

When we learn how to relate to our minds, we can choose how to react to any thought, instead of having our old, habitual, automatic reaction to that thought. As we learn to watch our thoughts, we begin to see habitual thought patterns or habitual reactions to thoughts that are particularly our own. To some of us, tiredness will always cause fearful thoughts to arise.

For one person, the thoughts of an expensive car may result in angry thoughts (Rich jerk! He doesn't deserve a car like that!"), or, for another, result in greedy thoughts (When I have money, I'll have a car like that, plus a yacht"). The thought of someone doing better than we are may lead to self-hating thoughts and to express themselves in ways as varied as hypochondria or despair. Or it might produce an envious thought. And that envious thought might then bring up a guilty thought, and so on.

Living in the Now

Some memory thoughts and some planning thoughts are useful, or at least necessary, for functioning in this or any culture. But it is important to remember that when we focus our attention on our thoughts of the past or the future, we are bringing past or future into our present, thus pushing the actual present, the "now," out of the mind.

When we're thinking of how much work we have to do while our boss is talking to us, or thinking of what we'll say next in a conversation with a friend, we can't be present to listen and to respond meaningfully right now. Similarly, when we're busy thinking of the next bite while we're chewing the present mouthful, or pondering dessert during the entree, we are simply not present to enjoy our eating right now.

Most people who meditate find they don't have to do nearly as much "future planning" or "past remembering" as they once thought they did. A healthy, well cared for body can react quickly and naturally to the immediate physical requirements of any situation, whether they involve fighting or fleeing, sleeping deeply or remaining awake and alert. Likewise, a mind cleared by meditation tends to respond naturally and appropriately to the mental circumstances of the present moment, whatever those circumstances may be.



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