Monday, October 27, 2008

Thinking About What You're Trying Not To Think About

Back in August, while riding my Harley-Davidson along the back roads of Wyoming, I was perplexed with a nagging thought that really had my attention. I wondered why people live their lives according to the desires of others and furthermore, why was I letting this drive me crazy? It was not MY problem. Or was it? Weeks later the epiphany hit me. I had been living for years according to the desires of others by allowing their voices to chant religiously in my mind and believing them, to boot! I came to the realization that I need to divorce those voices, the ones that keep telling me what they think I should/shouldn’t do, feel and think. I had been out there riding a motorcycle while my mind was riding on a train. It was time I jump off that train and let the rubber meet the road.

So often we’re married to the voices in our head; a well worn path we’ve been following without question and we wonder why we’re not happy in all areas of our lives. We can choose not to be distracted by or identify with those voices; they aren’t ours anyway. Or we can victimize ourselves by blaming people and circumstances to rationalize what our mind thinks, feeding and sustaining those very voices.

There is an almond shaped neuro structure in our brains called the amygdala, which is central to the nonverbal expression of negative emotions and disrupts the control of rational thought in humans. According to research, negative signals lose their meaning and comprehension when the amygdala is surgically removed. Since we’re not all going to run out and have our amygdala removed, I have a more workable idea. Divorce the “nut” because you’re in love with YOUR life…with being the unique human being that you are. Choose a new partner, a new belief, which matches your wisdom and medicine. Resolve to leave all the other shit behind you; leave it on the pavement! Kick it to the curb! When we’re married to others’ voices, it’s just a lonely night at the Memory Motel. Perhaps Mick Jagger was revealing a deep message in these lyrics…You’re just a memory, of a love that used to mean so much to me. [You’ve] got a mind of [your] own and you use it well and [you’re] one of a kind. [You] got a mind of [your] own and [you] use it mighty fine. Your mind is the Memory Motel, and thoughts, regardless of their nature, will park their ass there as long as you keep feeding them. Which guests do you want staying with you? Feed the ones you want to stay and starve the rest! They’ll keep knocking on the door but you don’t have to let them in.

We can choose to see and feel the potential for joy in every aspect of life. We all too often give up our power to live our own lives to forces outside of ourselves. We can be with what is in the moment and allow our hearts to open up, not only to ourselves, but to the world. We get caught up in spending so much time and energy looking for ways to cover our pain instead of facing it and questioning its truth. What we really want is to simply feel good about ourselves without any outside influences; people, materials, chemicals, recognition, praise, admiration. I invite you to get off the well worn path and onto the back roads. Create your own roadmap letting your heart be your guide. You don’t get on your motorcycle and hit the engine kill switch; you flip the start switch and fire it up with a spark! You crank the throttle and roll down the road, open to new adventures, discovering fresh forage for your eyes and mind. Treat your life like it’s your motorcycle!

I often hear motorcyclists say when they get on the road and leave all their troubles behind. The truth is, your troubles are always waiting for you when you return. I also hear people claim that they get out on the open road and don’t think about anything yet, it’s impossible to not think! It’s especially impossible to not think about something you don’t want to think about. And our troubles; they’re all just thoughts.

Try this. Sit back for a moment, clear your head a little, and now, for the next several minutes, I want you to think about absolutely anything you’d like to think about with the exception of Polar Bears. Go ahead…start. Did any Polar Bears creep into your thoughts?

Telling yourself or anyone else that you aren’t thinking about anything when you’re on your motorcycle is a lie…to yourself! The question needing thought is; what are you out there trying not to think about? When you get your answer, ask yourself if what you’re thinking is really even true. Question the thoughts you are trying to ignore and see how many you can let go because they have no validity in reality; only in your mind.
The thoughts aren’t going to go away but we don’t have to let them run our lives. We have a choice whether to listen and abide, to fall victim to their prey, or to acknowledge the thoughts and choose truthful, positive ones in their place. When you quit feeding thoughts that aren’t working for you, when you quit tolerating the negative thoughts that are holding you back, you open yourself up to you and to more joyful experiences.

Andrew Schneider sums this up beautifully. “The potential for joy and happiness is a constant within ourselves. We take it everywhere. But we are deluded if we think that others or situations must activate it for us to experience it. We are the only ones capable of activating it, and we can do so whenever we choose. If we prefer fear and worry or conditioning over happiness then we will implicitly choose not to activate it.
What we focus on becomes familiar, and what is familiar becomes our standard for what is real.
Happiness, freedom, peace are all natural states of being---and we have to consciously choose those natural states each and every moment of our lives---choosing love and gratitude no matter what.”

Now there’s something worth thinking about!