There are times when our thoughts sweep us away. We get caught up in the whirlwind of the mind’s magnetic pull, and something needs to happen to reel us back to the moment we’re actually in and what is happening there. It could be something small: we have forgotten the bread in the oven, or we’re stopped at a traffic light, being honked at because it has turned from red to green. It could be something heavy that stops us in our tracks: someone has suddenly passed away, some cancer has been spotted, the spouse wants a divorce.
Either way we are being brought back, slapped, woken up, snapped out of auto-pilot mode, our train of endless thought barreling down the tracks with no conductor at the wheel. When we take up a practice that requires discipline and presence such as yoga, meditation, or simply deep-breathing, we start to cultivate our awareness. Cultivating our awareness leads to the realization of just how much power our thoughts and emotions have over us.
We slowly begin to be less eager to always be doing something, to fill up every waking moment with whatever meets the approval of our mind and its current content. We start to explore the space in our mind instead of the content of our mind, and in doing this we begin to find peace. Stepping out of the arena of incessant thought and obsessive emotion is like stepping out of a whirlwind. Part of us is always still in it, but we can learn to be less swept away by it.
This is how the heart is wiser than the mind. When we say “I realized I had stopped listening to myself”, we are usually referring to our hearts, not our heads. When we let the content of our minds become less important, we give ourselves the gift of working towards peace. Take the time, make the time, take stock of what’s in our hearts, slow down, pause, consider, notice. Then, too, we can start to be of greater service to others because we are truly taking care of ourselves first. Without nourishing our own hearts and spirits first, our potential to spread joy and healing to others will likely be limited, interrupted.
What we decide we “know” becomes just another set of shackles within the cage of the ego, if we hold the knowledge rigidly. The mind would have us follow it, mile after mile, down its many roads: desire, fear, justification, assumption, grudge, addiction. It wants desperately to hold on, to feel like it knows something, to be right about things, to endlessly nurse its wounds, to rave about all the sources of its pain and hurt.
If we hold the knowledge loosely, though, we can simultaneously benefit from it and release it. We can make our minds flexible, make our beliefs pliable, liberate ourselves from all the things we were once so certain about, the stuff we believed to comprise the sum total of our life’s potential, our very identity. We can open doors, remove blockages, step out of the whirlwind and return to our awareness: simple, calm, uncluttered, lucid with breathtaking clarity.
And the heart knows that to be at peace, it must ignore the ravings of the mind. When we learn to listen better to our heart, our heart learns to stop listening to the mind. We lead with our heart and we see that the rest just sort of takes care of itself. The movie of our life begins to change in script, plot and theme, because once we accept ourselves just as we are, our projector begins to change.