Thinking is like a Chinese Finger trap, the more I tug and think I’m making progress, the further from free I’m getting..!
In the Yoga tradition, negative thinking (worry & doubt) is compared to being frightened of a snake at dusk, but when actually seen clearly, it is just a coiled rope. We think of things in our life as snakes, when really they are just ropes!
Spiritual practices always address the role of the mind — they are the original Philosophy & Psychology. The mind gets a bad rap, though, because it is so tricky. Like the Finger trap, it’s monkey mind, to be avoided, transcended, an illusion, etc. I think it’s more about clarifying the function of the mind so it runs like a clean engine, where we don’t tug at knots and tighten our mental stress, where the inner environment is transparent to perceive the ropes for what they are, and be present for the beauty around us in the day to day.
In Yoga, we investigate our mind-states and conclusions that make us believe there is a snake to fear. Instead, when there is a snake reaction, we remember to breath, to sit with it, poke it with a stick, feel it’s scales, and in that staying presence the thing goes from scary to mundane. We give it time to unwind and reveal that it was different then we perceived, and not so bad, after all.
I notice the quality of my mind when I forget my thoughts, suddenly I am in a much lighter and simple state of being that contrasts other stressful parts of my day. In a given day I pass from being ecstatic and free, to getting triggered into a drama that pulls me into it’s trenches. I get worried, depressed, feel hopeless, because I am believing this story — that something is a snake, to go back to the metaphor. Because I have studied the ups and downs of my mind, I am more suspect now of these episodes, and more excited about uncovering the snakes for the ropes that they are, learning that there is nothing to fear. It’s been a big opportunity for me to take charge of my life, not to fix everything, but to be present with it, observe and not over-react. Then it’s easier for me to slip back into the simplicity of just being, where I perceive life’s simple beauty.
The very flickering of these mind states proves to me their in-substantiality. The medium of thought is fickle! And we have to learn to ride the waves. That’s really what yoga is about, when it boils down to it. Spiritual / Psychological Surfing. The fact that I can be depressed when I believe one thought and feel totally free when I am not dwelling on that thought makes me realize there is a choice of my inner world.
I share this because I have struggled with my mind and have ruined beautiful days because I was wallowing in something. As I do this inner process of looking at my snakes I am taking responsibility for the way I want to live. As I make different choices about not feeling sad and un-loved due to a past relationship, I start to shift the program in my mind and not fall into the same habitual stories.
So we begin the snake process with all parts of our life. We start to let the dust settle and perceive that life was not what it seemed.
Isn’t it our thoughts that cast and design the film of our life as either a suspenseful drama or a romantic comedy?! Maybe it’s not about controlling it, but allowing it to uncoil into the nuanced multi-disciplinary, genre-bending thing that can’t even be contained, but is so unique and artistic.
So, I invite you to do the extreme sport of sitting with your snakes. I invite you to not run away or try to kill the snake, but to sit with it and use methods to work with the snakes of the mind to transform them. Mantra is the Yogic tool of repetition of tones that re-pattern the mind waves. Mantra is an easier way to deal with a mind that’s strayed. Breath work is another way I always re-set when I’ve gone down a hole of over-thinking something.
Ultimately, our goal is not to know everything, but to be comfortable not knowing. To live more in the body and the heart. To experience life’s subtlety rather then stressing out to make it be the way we think it should be to make us happy. Be blessed!