The Tale Of Our Two Minds
August 6, 2020
Let me start with 2 small exercises.
Close your eyes( after reading this instruction!!) and don’t try to think about anything for about 30 Sec.
What happened? Most probably, when you closed your eyes, lots of thoughts and images kept popping. Right?
Now, let’s move to part 2 of the exercise. Close your eyes again. But, this time, pay attention to what specific thoughts and images are floating in your head. Notice the thoughts, make a note mentally about what they were, and let the thoughts dissipate. Try this for 45 sec.
What happened this round? It’s very likely; you would have managed to track a few of your thoughts. Maybe some reminder about what you need to do tomorrow. Or, some argument with someone. Or perhaps some thought about something you forgot, or maybe some old memory that cropped up.
Whatever the specific thoughts or images you may have experienced, we call it “mind chatter.” This traffic of thoughts happens all the time in our daily existence, except when we are sleeping.
The Two Minds
In the second exercise, I asked you to close your eyes and note your thoughts. Your thought about what you need to do tomorrow, e.g. was a consequence of your mind, thinking. But then, if your mind was thinking, then who was observing the mind thinking?
It was your mind watching your mind think.
Welcome to the world of the “two minds” that all of us have. The “Thinking mind” and the “Observing Mind.”
The challenge with our thinking mind is that it is tough to control it. In case you are wondering what I mean here, let me illustrate it with an example.
Whatever you do, don’t think of juicy yellow mango. Don’t think of sucking at the mango while reading the next two paragraphs. OK, I am sure that you could not prevent yourself from thinking about the yellow mango as much as you tried. But something even more interesting would have happened. You were watching yourself think about the yellow mango- Right?
Your observing mind was watching your thinking mind indulge in the yellow mango despite the instruction it was giving to not think of the yellow mango.
It is your thinking mind that is chattering away when you are driving or waiting in the queue at the supermarket or when you are reading this post. It is like a big bulldog at the end of a leash, dragging us around wherever it is moving. Our observing mind is like the leash that is desperately trying to control our thinking mind.
Strengthen Your Observing Mind
Most of our stress is because we cannot see the difference between our thinking and observing minds. It’s as if both these minds are fused, and we are unable to differentiate between the two. Because of this, thoughts keep popping up and It becomes difficult to control our feelings or emotions. Our emotions become us. We become angry, we become jealous, we become anxious, etc.
The trick is to create a space and see the difference between our thinking and observing minds. When you bring the observing mind into the equation, you can say ” I feel angry” instead of “I am angry” because your observing mind can separate YOU from your thinking mind that is creating the negative thoughts and emotions.
People often ask me how I deal with my negative emotions like anger, fear, jealousy, etc. I tell them that I feel emotions like everyone else. But thanks to my observing mind, I know the play of my thinking mind. It is the dog pulling me wherever it wants to go. I resolve not to identify with the dog, and I don’t let it control me.
My observing mind gives me the power to diffuse the thinking mind and my negative emotions. It helps me use the negative thoughts and feelings of my thinking mind as a trigger to behave positively. Be courageous when in fear, be magnanimous when jealous, and be confident when anxious.
Your emotions may not be in my control. But your behavior certainly is.
Learning to separate the observing mind from the thinking mind requires rigorous practice. Its a habit worth cultivating because it liberates you from the clutches of your thinking mind.