In the tired evening hours of some longer flights home, I have found myself indulging in TV, specifically House of Cards. The episode I just finished had the famous scene where Claire dramatically exclaims “We’ve been lying Francis… No, lying to ourselves,” for 25 years. It was a good reminder of the deep life lesson of the crazy stories we tell ourselves and so often keeps creeping into my own life.
There is constant game being played in our lives. It’s the game of thought. For me, it’s my desire to change or control my thoughts. And many times the story I tell myself.
Between recent conversations interludes with friends, it’s a strong reminder of just how deep and far our minds go to trick us into spurts of self-confidence and glimmers of joy, engaging in the never-ending roller coaster of the mind’s identification with our feelings and ever so protective self-defense of the “I”.
It’s the false belief that I know how to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. How to feel good about myself and go forth in the world with the needed confidence to achieve. How to manifest through the power of positive thinking and so on. A recent conversation reminded me of just how much I still find myself playing this game, and how much work there is left to create the enduring space between mind and feelings. And how the Trickster mind manipulates this discourse every single day.
As we say in the mindfulness space, it’s about going beyond or without thought that deepens us, not just trying to change or “trick” our thoughts that is the long-term sustainable game found through meditation and mindful living.
It’s a long road to Being the observer of self.
As is taught in many of the mindful traditions, our thoughts (and feelings) are just simple things that come and go… like the weather or cloud in the sky. This is not to be confused with who we are, the greater I that is the observer of these thoughts. The one asking, curiously, what are they, these thoughts? Why do I have this feeling now? Where do they come from? And not getting completely absorbed by the identity of those thoughts and feelings since that leads to the closed mind cycle of thinking, when it becomes nearly impossible to see beyond these simple thoughts.
In essence, I find myself so many times, working hard to trick my own mind.
I try to change the weather of my thoughts by reading powerful inspiring books. I try to coerce my brain to that power of positive thinking. To create more abundance in my life (I’ve read the Law of Attraction, sequel to The Secret, countless times). And yet, I find myself like a yo-yo… up and down… and frustrated on why I can’t find a constant state of positive thinking. When life is going well, and it’s all going your way… it’s easy to stay on the top end of that yo-yo string. And when it goes awry, as life always does, it becomes even easier to drop to the bottom, sometimes in a single moment or interaction. The reason? Because I am buying into this mind game and trying to play it, versus simply trying to go beyond thought and just observing it. Observe the thoughts. Observe the mind.
Observe the mind itself acting as the ultimate trickster.
So what is it that we, I, our mind need to do to get out of this endless cycle? That is the everyday work, the meditation, the mindful principles, the deeper look into the heart, the soul, and getting beyond the limiting power of just our thinking mind.
Even us smart leaders and entrepreneurs , as we talk about in the Mindful Entrepreneur Workshop Friday, trick our thinking into jusfty the actions, unbearable hours and “stay the course” at all cost mentality.
And yes, this is not easy work. Simple to understand, but not easy. It’s hard to separate one’s mind from the thoughts and feelings. To do the work to cultivate the presence to find that space between thoughts and self. The work of acceptance and letting go of the thoughts, the past, the filters we created for life to see these self-evident truths. And the compassion with yourself to be OK, knowing how far we have left to be truly content, at peace and clear without judgment on ourselves for being in such a state of mindless thought manipulation. Equally, to deeply empathize with the plight of our fellow humans, who also suffer with such deep-seated challenges. This is one of the greatest teachers – observing how we judge others.
Releasing that Judging Self
There are situations and people in my life that trigger a response that quickly become judgmental. And it’s frustrating for me… but I know it’s OK to have these responses. It’s important to recognize, observe and then reflect on these moments as this is what will deepen the process of going beyond our judging thoughts.
Then we turn to our outward judging self, and see how we lay our own life drama and fixed thoughts on to them. Just this week, I have taken note of just how easy it is to be the Judge and the Jury toward others.
Much of this judgment comes as we find new paths in our life, ones we feel are right, or correct or reinforced through praise from others or society. We take these newfound passions or stories about self and then through that lens we judge others. It’s so easy to do.
The examples, when you’re tuned in to observe, are endless. Recently I’ve seen this occur when our eating and fitness habits get reinvigorated into a commitment of healthy living. And then, through that lens we judge when see someone not eating or acting healthy according to our new ideals. It happens when we create or re-inforce a set of values or beliefs and see others not acting in a way aligned with “our values.” And so we judge and judge.
It happens because it helps us feed this newly found place that we have “tricked” ourselves into believing is right and correct. A place where we feel strong about our stage in life, living and talking with conviction around this temporary state of thought. And this happens a lot for folks, like me, who are trying hard to correct past suffering in life, and feel we are on a road to a greater, deeper, better way of being.
We also see it when we have great success and find the reinforcement of the many things we’ve done well in life. And it only serves one purpose, to protect that fragile game of mind manipulation that gets us thinking and feeling good about the self, the ego if you will. This leaves us missing the greater whole of this wonderful interconnected universe we live in. To be a great leader means learning what it is to “BE” truly a great person.
I’ve seen it in numerous conversations with friends of independent means:
A passive scoff “at all those 9-5ers” living like ants in their boxed up worlds.
A passing judgment on all those in corporate jobs or entrepreneurs “trying to conquer the world” as shallow and unworthy.
So many times we see our intentions or actions projected on another. We feel negative about a situation or even our own actions, and we assume others around us come from the same place, the same intent. I hear folks say “We need to really get better at _____” or “ You really just want _______” and it’s their own wants and feelings of self judgement that are being projected on the other person. So we must tread especially mindfully here.
For many here in the Bay Area, the trickster of minds is taking great pride in the story of “how they got there” and looking at others’ situations to say, if only they could be more like me they’d be better off. And as with so many times in the examples above, we have no idea we are even doing it.
We have been tricked, one more time, by that ultimate trickster… the thinking mind.
Let us move beyond our judging. Beyond the self identification of thoughts and feelings. Get off this emotional roller coaster for good.
Hope to see you again on the journey here online or next set of workshops
Sidenote: as most who know me, know… I feel strongly that this TV watching is a mistake. It lets our minds wander passively into the reptilian (non-thinking) brain; this has been scientifically proven. This leads us to a space below thought, into areas that are usually very negative, violent or even harmful. And yet, I too fall off the wagon like everyone else.