Leo Buscaglia once said, “Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Thubten Chodron, said, “Remind yourself that it is not realistic to expect external objects to be a lasting source of happiness. Reflect on the fact that by letting go, we can enjoy our health, our relationships, any wealth we might have when it’s there and be relaxed with it isn’t.
Mark Van Buren said, “The truth is, everything we could possibly need for joy, ease, wisdom, and compassion is right here and now, in the ordinary messiness of our lives. At some point, we finally realize this and learn to let go of the struggles and the wishes for some other life, and, with a sense of wonder and courage, trust-fall into our actual lives with a deep sense of radical acceptance.
To most of us, these gleaming gems of advice seem so obvious yet somehow we don’t live our lives accordingly. Why?
I’ll venture a guess to my own question: We live in a mental world of uninvited beliefs and biases put in our minds by others. We’ve been infused with cultural narratives from our past, confirmed by present day news feeds filled with other people’s agendas. This stream of disinformation is shaped by the power and status goals of politicians, delivered by a universe of profit driven main stream and social media organizations who’ve lost sight of the destruction they’re doing to society.
So, in this case, how do we get to those lofty ideals I offered at the beginning of the article? The first step is to recognize you have the power to manage your own mind. The very mind that is constantly being exposed to everyone else’s beliefs and biases to achieve their agendas. Here you might be saying, let’s pause a moment. Doesn’t the idea of managing one’s mind seem a bit too strange? Please, indulge me a bit longer.
Our minds are not things, they’re processes, the result of our perceptions and interpretations. It’s settled cognitive science that we see what we expect to see. And it’s settled social science that our interpretations are shaped by what we’ve been taught in our upbringing and by our previous experiences. It may not be obvious but these facts put us in a cognitive loop. If we perceive what we expect and we expect what we believe, we are caught in a recurring loop. The good news is we can interrupt the whole process and begin to take control of our beliefs and biases. In simple terms, we can learn to manage the process we call our minds, and think again.
It starts with a pause. You’re heard of this pause before: “Take a breath,” “Count to ten,” “Never mail a letter you’ve written in anger.” They all add up to the advice that says, “stop our automatic thinking and response processes and think again,” because these responses will almost always contain our beliefs and biases. And they are almost always wrong, obsolete, regrettable, caustic and hurtful to you and the other person.
In summary, I’m not so naïve as to think this one article will change your life and you’ll be able to incorporate those gems of advice at the beginning of this column. But I can promise two things: If you do follow those ideas, you’ll have a much happier life. And I’ll be offering my info on this issue of managing our minds for the next few weeks in this column and on my radio show on WDBX 91.1 FM at 10:00 AM Wednesdays. I hope you take the time to tune in.