One of my mentors long ago said “Shasheen, If it ain’t love it ain’t you,” and another keeps telling me that “anytime you are feeling anything other than happiness and peace, it is only serving as a reminder to let go of whatever you are holding onto and get back in touch with your Self” But what does that mean?
Without getting too deep into the mechanics of the mind and the idea of a life force or god, what can easily be demonstrated is that there seems to be at the very least some kind of duality operating within the brain. To give you an idea of what I mean… Just sit back quietly and Observe your mind for 30 seconds. What do you hear? What do you notice? What I notice is that there are thoughts and ideas occurring in my brain and there is also “someone” or “something” noticing the thoughts and ideas. The thoughts are some kind of an “object” of a “subject” or rather that “I” am observing. Have you ever sat there at night as you are trying to go to sleep and listen to what goes on in your head? Try looking in the mirror and observe what is going on in your mind. What is the source of the voice and who is listening? Have you ever had a song that you can't get out of your head? What do you say to your friends… “I can’t get that damn song out of my head.” Where is the song and who is listening to the song being repeated over and over again. To keep it simple all I need to know is that whatever it is that “I” am listening to is not actually “Me” but rather it is the brain, the machinery filled with conditioned brain circuitry that is attempting to make sense of this world FOR “Me.” It is here that I have learned to BE the "Observer"
As I've said earlier, the mind is nothing more than the storage bin for all of the conditioning that we’ve received. It contains all of the energetic imprints of the things we have heard, felt, smelled, tasted and seen and has strung them all together in our brain circuitry. Its also the place where we make sense of things. When I touch a hot stove and feel pain, my brain stores that experience, and the next time I see a hot stove I know not to touch it again. From what I have come to understand, this IS the function of the brain and it is what it has been designed to do. Our hearts pump blood, our stomachs digest food, and our brains judge, assess, and evaluate every stimulus that it encounters. It then personalizes, associates, and creates responses based on its previous experiences. While this functionality has been very useful to me at times and has protected me from all kinds of harmful situations, it has also been the cause of great suffering. What I have found is that the personalized associations, and meanings that get arbitrarily created in this neurological soup, especially the ones that leave me feeling stressed, frustrated, hurt, sad, angry or depressed upon further examination for the most part are really not as dramatic as I seem to automatically make them.
I guess that is the point that I’m trying to make. The goal in the practice of being the Observer for me is to be able to step out of autopilot for a moment, pause, breathe into my heart and reflect rather than BE in some kind of unconscious conditioned STIMULUS/RESPONSE pattern. It is in this practice that I get to desensitize my buttons, I learn to separate the ME from my mind, and it is here that I have found an ability to detach from the intensity and the discomfort of the most uncomfortable moments in my life.
What I can tell you from my experience is that it is not easy and for me will continue to be a life long practice. It is a practice that has brought me to my knees in humility and sometimes insanity as I have come to see the extent of the conditioning that is so deeply ingrained within my operating system. Over time the shock of actually listening to what has been going on has diminished and today after years of practice, there is a level of detachment that has made being the observer manageable.
I think it is also important to note that for years I had tried to "quiet" my mind and presumed that I would some how be able to stop the brutal judgments and voices that seemed so unbelievably destructive at times. It was this belief that kicked in the viscious cycle of guilt and shame for me because no matter what I tried the voices would still show up from time to time. What I have come to believe for myself is that while I may never be able to stop the voices from rearing their ugly head, today I can begin to actively choose my response in their presence. There is no better illustration of this idea that I can think of other than in than the movie A Beautiful Mind.
As John Nash's schizophrenia began to take a hold of his life it became completely unmanageable. The three personalities began to haunt him. They appeared real and he believed that they were real. He goes through insulin shock therapy and took medications that seemed to help control the voice, but ultimately he lost himself. It wasn't until he realized that the characters that he was seeing were not getting any older that he decided to get off the medications and begin what he called "a diet of the mind" He no longer WAS his mind but suddenly was the OBSERVER of his mind. He says goodbye to his characters and while they do occasionally re-appear, he learns to playfully deal with his world joking about what is real and what is not real. At the end his strategy works and the academic community embraces his work and the man John Nash. But what was most powerful for me is the very last scene. After just receiving the Nobel Prize in Economics, while walking with his wife, the three characters pop back up. When his wife asks him "what is it, John?" John is able to say "Nothing" and simply acknowledges the characters are there, chooses to turn away, and continues to walk with his wife basking in the glory of his achievement.
By learning to become the observer, pause, breathe, and reflect I give myself a moment to bear witness to my mind rather than BE my mind.
Just like John Nash it is only when I give myself the opportunity to pause, to take a deep breath, and reflect that I truly have the ability to exercise choice. With that choice comes a profound freedom greater than any other freedom that has been granted to me. It is a freedom that I have come to value and one I continue to practice exercising every day. It is here that I find the opportunity to dance and play with the INTENSITY and the DURATION of any experience that I encounter and it is why I have come to embrace my Dance with Discomfort.
I would love to hear the voices in your head... :)
From the heart