Happiness and enjoyment are not the opposite of being productive or having meaning.
Inner silence is not the opposite of having thoughts.
A joyful life is not the opposite of a challenging life.
These are a few examples of polarization I’ve had to untangle in my own mind. Polarization is, unfortunately, a habit that all of our brains are doing all the time, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Did you know that trees are made of millions of perfect, tiny fractals? When closely examined, the golden ratio appears everywhere in greenery. Yet, I bet you’ve probably never actually seen it when you look at a tree.
I’m sure you already know that everything is made up of atoms and molecules. But you never see any of those, either.
When you hear music playing and you don’t care for it, doesn’t it all sound pretty much the same? If you hate a genre, I’m sure you’ll say all of that genre sounds the same.
These are all examples of how our brain reduces down the information it receives, so that it can focus on more important things like survival. If you could see all the information that is sent to your brain, you would most likely be overwhelmed!
These reductions turn themselves into generalizations, which result in many pitfalls. A person could turn out to be very ignorant and never learn the truth. One could also become very hateful and bitter.
So what do we do to fight these forces of nature?
The reason for these shortcuts our brains take is simply our lack of mindfulness. When we aren’t actively steering the wheel of our minds at all times, our brains will decide what to think for us.
Of course, to be efficient and survive, the brain will create shortcuts in this process. This is where we get a lot of things wrong, and the need to become more present and mindful comes in.
I honestly had no idea what these wrong perceptions I had were until I decided to practice mindfulness.
The first thing you need to learn if you want to become more mindful is this:
Your thoughts are not you! Thoughts are a separate thing.
Here’s a scene I like to visualize, which might help this to make more sense.
Imagine you’re sitting at the head of a big table, conducting a meeting in your mind. Each thought that’s presented to you is a different person at the table, giving you their two cents. Now, it’s up to you what to make of this information. In this life, this is the only form of complete control you have! Which at first may sound like a depressing statement, but I promise you, later you’ll realize how perfect it is this way (if you don’t already know).
It’s quite liberating when you start to think in this new way!
Suddenly, you don’t feel guilt for any bad thought that rushes to you and tries to blow you over. Instead, you realize the attack, conquer it, and learn from it. Congratulations! You have just practiced mindfulness.
Have a wonderful, present day!