[This journal entry is from February 22nd, 2005. As always, Jay’s current thoughts about this entry are in the post script – Dawn]
The Mind’s Errant Thoughts
It’s amazing, the kinds of thoughts that the mind can choose to indulge in. So many useless, pointless, mindless thoughts that seem to come from nowhere and lead to nothing. It’s a bit comical, and it could be a bit embarrassing if it wasn’t seen as being comical instead.
I know there’s a great deal of negativity in many minds, and I’m quite grateful to have worked through a lot of that. I vaguely remember what it was like, though… I’d crack a joke, no one would think it was funny (or no one would get it), my thoughts would tell me I was stupid and lame; and I would feel stupid and lame. Next time I’d keep my mouth shut and my thoughts would tell me I was stupid and lame for not taking advantage of such a great opportunity to crack a joke. When your mind has a negative lean to it, it doesn’t really matter what you do; your mind will find and exploit the negative aspect of whatever you did or refrained from doing. If there’s no negative aspect to the situation, your mind will manufacture one.
Being positive is much nicer, no doubt. If your mind goes after the positive aspect of whatever is going on, it’s certainly favorable to having it pursue the negative. There’s always a positive aspect to every situation, even if your mind has to ratchet up to a higher energy level to perceive it.
So many thoughts are just noise, though. I have a history of getting songs stuck in my head. When I was in a band, and for some time after, you could ask me at any time what song was in my head and I would have an answer. Bass, guitar, drums, vocals, horns… it’s all there, like popping in a CD. It’s great if you’re writing a song, having a full band and orchestra in your head to flesh out your melody. It’s not so great when you’re trying to meditate and the band plays on regardless.
Then you really clear it up, you have a moment or a minute or an hour of blessed silence… and you’re rewarded with some lame song you haven’t heard for ten years (and wouldn’t have minded never hearing again) blasting full volume through the sacred silence. What the hell?
Of course, we never really have to go back to square one… it just sometimes feels that way. Every moment of meditation gets us closer to stillness, every discipline we take on gives us another degree of control. There are small degrees and huge degrees of control, and we just keep it up until we’ve mastered them all. The only reason the mind ever fails to serve is because we have allowed it to become the master; and that is a power we must wield.
I’m not sure if the progression throughout this entry was deliberate or not, but it’s my favorite part of this advice to myself. Alas, the jukebox in my head still exists; I found out how to unplug it, but I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. That was a progression as well, one that continues today; I don’t pretend to have total control over my mind, anymore than I pretend that my inner landscape looks the same now as it did when I began this work.
One of the keys to letting the progression be more helpful for me is releasing the frustration of knowing where I want to be, seeing where the path leads, and not being there yet. I used to make it a regular practice to look back three or six months to remind myself that progress was actually taking place. It eased that frustration a bit. Now I look forward in special times I set aside, using tools I have collected or created, and try to stay clear between those times. When frustration comes, it feels more like an unseen hand on my back pushing me forward, an extra turbo boost.
It happens with everything if you let it, every aspect of life has an evolutionary progression. I lived with a lot of sadness for a long time. I hated it, but I embraced it as a practice that was doing harm only to me. I felt that frustration was potentially harmful to others, and it took a long time to see that frustration pointed the right way is a healthy propellant.
It also took me awhile to see that the mind’s errant thoughts are not so errant after all. Stillness was good; anything less was failure. I wrote to empty myself, meditated to quiet myself, all in the hopes that one day I would have nothing to write or think about. I couldn’t see the positive aspect of thinking, though I was engaged in it to some degree; I could only see the beauty of the stillness awaiting beyond thought.
I am capable of some compassion for my former self, of course. He’s the one that had to reconcile himself with the daily threat of nuclear war, recover from a public school system designed to churn out employees for modern industry, learn what the difference between food and food substitutes were and wean himself off chemical addictions formed by simply eating what was cheap and easy. Yesterday Jay had to confront his own ideas about relationships for today Jay to have any shot at an authentic friendship or romance. He had a lot to think about, compounded by guilt over not being able to turn off the chatter at will.
There is a peace that comes with knowing that your essential self is always gravitating toward something better, and that peace is what makes me able to enjoy the journey. Life is not a destination; it is a series of destinations. Once a trajectory is established and a few of those mileposts are behind the traveler, the journey is one that will inherently be enjoyable. If life is just a journey, the mind has naught to do but wander.
Do you have a spiritually charged word or subject that you’d like Jay to write about? Send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment on the blog. We look forward to hearing your ideas. And thanks for reading!