Imagine a beautiful and serene island that you are living on where you have everything that you need to be comfortable and able to survive, yet you know that your time living here is coming to an end soon.
Now imagine that instead of appreciating the little time you have remaining on the island, you’re distracted, anxious and frustrated, too consumed by past memories and anticipation of the future. Where you never get the chance to truly exist during the final precious moments that you have left on this slice of tropical paradise.
That made up scenario draws many parallels to our lives.
We all live on this incredibly fascinating planet called Earth, with most of us having all of the basic essentials that are needed to survive and feel comfortable.
Yet instead of enjoying it and existing in the present, we dwell on the past and the future, getting so caught up in identifying with our thoughts that we miss out on seeing and living on the beautiful island that is our life.
Living in this unconscious habitual state of teetering between past and future with minimal time focused on the present is a recipe for never attaining peace from our minds.
In order to peel back the layers of consciousness and become more aware of our thoughts and our emotional responses to them, so that we can repeatedly return to the present and live in the now, the method of unlearning is necessary.
Unlearning Identification with Thoughts
Just like we learned through childhood to associate specific emotional reactions to certain thoughts, we can unlearn them in adulthood and find peace from mind.
Think about a time when someone said something about you that wasn’t entirely true and how immediately a thought popped in your head (hey, that’s not true!) and in return made you feel a certain way (anger, frustration, etc), that led to a reaction (say something rude back about them).
As Eckhart Tolle has said, “Emotions are the body’s reaction to our minds.”
We’ve developed these mental habits throughout our lives, but through the power of awareness and careful and continuous observation of our minds, as a kind of silent watcher, we can unlearn the ones that don’t serve us.
We can start to see the situation unfold in front of us and watch the thoughts arise from a slightly detached perspective where we are no longer viewing it from “being the thought”.
This dimension of consciousness gives us the ability to choose whether or not to identify with the thought, and subsequently leads us to preventing the feelings of emotions and reactions that would typically follow rather involuntarily from occurring right on the spot.
The more we think additional thoughts about a situation, the more energy we feed into it. Whereas the less we think about it, the less energy is allocated towards the event, allowing us to disentangle ourselves from the web of emotions that could have risen.
Having attained this potentiality, we can be indifferent and not a slave to our incessant stream of thoughts. This wisdom allows us to learn just how inefficient and unnecessary many of our thoughts are and marks the commencing of weeding them out.
To be clear, this technique is very different from the act of suppressing thoughts and emotions. When you suppress, you push negative emotions down into the depths of your being where they marinate, boil and eventually become destructive when they are forced to be confronted, severely impacting the quality of your life.
Choosing to disidentify with certain thoughts so that negative emotions are minimized or don’t sprout about at all and channeling that energy elsewhere is a much healthier approach.
Unlearning the Focusing of our Attention on the Past and Future
Just like we learned to focus most of our waking hours on the remembrance of the past and anticipation of the future, we can unlearn this vicious cycle and bring our attention back to the now.
This is where the ultimate vacation of all vacations exists, for the present is all there is and the only place peace from mind can be attained.
Even if we experience it for glimpses at a time, it’s the source from which joy flows through.
With practice of remembering to return to the now and disidentification with the thoughts in our minds, enlightenment can be found, which is the realization that we have all that we need in these moments, for within them the past and future are of no concern, just the essence of being in the present.
It definitely takes persistence, focus and hard work, but isn’t it worth working on so that instead of living with constant distraction, fear, anxiety and suffering, we can live in peace, see the beauty of our lives and appreciate whatever time we have left?
“A busy mind can often rob you of peace of mind. The peace that we seek is not peace of mind, it’s peace from mind.” – Naval Ravikant