The Pros and Cons of Mind Reading

Thinking MindHave you ever wished you could read minds?  It seems like an incredible super power. There are some obvious perks: you’d do very well on game shows that ask trivia questions, and you’d know what the silent teenager across from you at the dinner table was actually thinking.  But the gilded idea of mind reading would very quickly become exposed as a major disappointment.

Our minds operate according to the same structure, with different content for each person.  The mind uses the content of your life to fuel its never-ending cycle of thought after thought. It also efficiently uses those thoughts to build up momentum for its continued operation.

Even though it seems logical to base your thoughts about another person on the thoughts they have or share with you, in reality they are a human being who also happens to contain the same thought-creating machine you do, and more often than not that machine is running on autopilot.  Mind reading would only end up telling you what content that person’s mind uses to fuel its incessant thinking, and not who that person truly is.

Can you tell which thoughts you consciously choose to entertain versus those that randomly fire of their own accord?

If I am honest and aware, I can tell that the majority of my thoughts are produced by a mind on autopilot with no actual prompting decision to engage in thinking.   I don’t consider this a failure, rather it is liberating!

When you can watch your thoughts and notice which ones were on purpose, and which ones were involuntary, you can choose to not take the autopilot thinking too seriously. The more you notice involuntary thinking, the more you are able to choose thoughts that are of some purpose for you instead.  Thoughts of worry, fear, judgment, complaints, and attachment are then seen for what they really are; firmly established patterns of the mind that fuel its autopilot mode of thinking.  They are nothing to take too seriously in yourself, or in others.  Now the mind is no longer using you, you are using the mind.


How To Calm A Turbulent Mind

Photo by Peter SperoIt is common to tell someone to, “take a deep breath,”  when they’re on the verge of becoming distraught.  This next advice goes far beyond well wishing and explains how the breath can actually work for you in times of trial:

“The wonderful way of charging yourself with nectar is just by breathing. Breath is our life. Breath not only builds up the body, it also builds up the mind. If you regulate the breath, you have regulated the mind. To give an example: Suppose somebody looks at you and uses a very bad word. The person used nothing but a sound, but you got really disturbed. You become angry. Just a little agitation of the mind agitated your whole body. And what happened to your breath? That is the secret. The agitation of the mind brings agitation of the breath. So take the clue and say, ‘To calm the mind, calm the breath.'” (Swami Satchidananda)


The Mind Magnet

By Peter SperoToday I noticed a constant pull within me to scroll through various things on my phone.  I would put on my makeup, and then check my email.  Get dressed, scroll through Facebook.  Sit down on the bus, surf the web.  The magnetic pull of my phone started feeling very obvious so I decided to put it away and not use it.

Then I was looking out of the bus window and I started thinking about what I had said in a conversation last night.  My mind then jumped to what I was about to do at work.  Back and forth, my thoughts fluctuated between past and future.  I noticed sitting there on the bus that just as the phone had a magnetic pull towards it, so did my mind.  I decided to let go of the past and future thoughts and let myself be in the moment I was living.

A few seconds passed and once again I was reliving an event, and making up scenarios about future events.  I noticed.  I let it go.  I was back on the bus, staring out of the window looking at the rain and a little taco stand in a parking lot.  Even when I had brought myself back into the moment I could feel the pull of my mind on my attention.  It was magnetic.

By Peter SperoDo you ever notice that your mind keeps pulling you in even when you make a conscious choice to be in the present moment?  Do you ever come back into the actual moment you are experiencing and realize you had been wrapped up in thoughts for a long period of time?  Have you ever had the experience of listening to someone, and at the end of the conversation realize you had no idea what they were talking about because you were thinking the whole time?

If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, congratulations!  You are aware of your thoughts!  For many, they never realize they are wrapped up in thinking, because they have been completely taken over by the mind.  The mind is living through them and they have no idea that they are not the voice in their head.  To notice that your mind has a magnetic quality that is constantly pulling you in is the flowering of your consciousness.  You have separated who you are, the one who notices the thoughts, from the thoughts themselves.

While it may seem that there should be a fix for this, a solid solution for the magnetic mind, the solution is already arising if you can notice when you are thinking.  That is your awareness gaining strength.  Each time you recognize you’ve been pulled into thoughts, and out of the present, you have given yourself an opportunity to operate from the only place of true power, the only space where anything actually happens, the present moment.

The more often you gently take away attention from the mind and place it on your surroundings, the easier it will become, and the more the infinite intelligence of consciousness will guide your actions.  In this way the highest potential contained within each present moment has the opportunity to manifest in your life.  Being present now creates a miraculous future.


The Stranger Who Killed My Ego

Happy Sign

One night a few summers back I went to the gym, and feeling quite proud of myself decided to walk home to keep the momentum going.  As I was briskly walking along, with my rainbow New Balances and a big grin on my face, a young artist who could’ve been my age asked me to look at his photographs.  I admired them, complimented his artistic eye, and was about to continue on my way home.  But before I could, he started asking me if I was going to buy them.  I told him I had no money on me but that I wished him good luck with his work.

Instead of the usual disappointed face and goodbye, I received a totally unexpected barrage of questions.  Did I really have no money at all?  Couldn’t I go to the ATM? Don’t I just live off my parents’ money anyway?  I admitted I was blessed and did in fact have some money to my name, but that I too was an artist, working part time.  He wouldn’t stop asking questions.  I could have made the choice to walk away.  In my mind it was important to just watch him and see him as a human being.  But when someone is completely taken over by the voice in their head, as he clearly was, the most helpful thing can be to choose a new situation, and exit.

Saying things like “I am blessed” and telling him how, as a poet, I understand how difficult it is to make money, set me up for a barrage of attacks on my religion, and my art.  “Oh yeah right, we’re all poets aren’t we?” he sarcastically remarked.  Along with, “If you really were religious you would go and get money right now but you’re not, so I guess you aren’t really what you say you are.”  On and on he went.  And I just stood there in awe, listening.

Eventually I gave it up as a bad job and walked away, tears streaming down my face.  He had attacked every identification I held dear.  He tore down all of the things I associated with to give me an identity.  He acted as if he could not see me at all, as if I were not a real person standing in front of him.  He may have appeared like many of my acquaintances from art school, with his hipster clothing and shaggy hair, but he didn’t seem to relate to me on any level.

I was in shambles the rest of my walk home; you would have thought something truly terrible had happened.  But I knew in the deep recesses of my consciousness that something terrible had not happened to me, it happened to my ego.  The part of me that attached itself to things and ideas had been belittled.  The voice in my head that demanded others take it seriously, and believe in what is says, had been attacked with no chance of retribution.  Not my true self, but the mind which seeks outside things to feel secure and to attain an identity, that ego self, had been greatly diminished.  He had claimed to know me better than myself.  He took everything I thought I was, and laughed at it, claimed it was all one big hoax.

Now I can say, thank God for this stranger.  Everything he said, all of the parts of me he attacked, were much too specific to be meaningless.  The universe is a beautiful being, who used this man, a person completely taken over by his ego, to show me the vestiges of my own ego.  The universe teaches lessons through joy, but it can also use negative people and situations for your good.

Since I couldn’t defend myself after parting ways with this stranger, my ego could not repair itself.  It couldn’t build itself back up, dig its heals in, and explain why it was what it said it was.  Whenever the ego is diminished without being repaired, space is created for your true self to emerge, that which is beyond thoughts and emotions.  Instead of defending my beliefs about who I was, I allowed myself to let go of what others thought of me, along with letting go of what I thought about of myself.  No thoughts, no labels, are who I am.  Nothing I can ever think about myself will ever come close to the reality of my being.  That stranger was a small flame of refining fire, burning up the egoic mind-made self, leaving room for my eternal being to live more fully through me.  It did not feel good.  I was amazed by how truly terrible it felt.  But through acceptance, the pain dissolved, along with the resilient attachments that are the ego, and I was still there.  Completely whole, undiminished, and open to life as it really was.  We don’t need others to define who we are.  We don’t need ourselves to define who we are.  Beyond definitions, we just are.

consciousness, spirituality, Uncategorized

The Pain Body Practice and The Beginning of Inner Peace

I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. Every morning I listen to an audiobook, interview, sermon, or anything that will inspire me and bring me more fully into the spirit of the present. I am always amazed by how words of inspiration change my inner state from tired and dreary, to awake, energized, and joyful. As I do my makeup I let the positive words sink in. By the time I’m out the door I feel excited for life. This is the polar opposite of the feeling I have when I first wake up in the morning.

Inner peace is a practice. It requires practice in every single moment. This looks different in every moment. I know that when I’m at work it looks different than when I’m at home. At home I can listen to my audiobooks when I get ready for the day. At work I can allow myself to focus fully on each task, keeping my attention on the “doing” instead of the result I am working towards. When I am at home watching TV and a commercial about some deadly illness comes on and I am about to be afraid of it, I have to practice peace by letting go of fear. Each and every now is an opportunity for greater peace. It is totally fine that not all moments seem as peaceful as others, that is all part of the practice.

Yesterday I began talking about the pain body, the residual energy of past pain that lives within each of us. The pain body creates great opportunities for practice. Of course they don’t feel great, but the awareness gained in the moment of disidentification from the pain body can put you light years ahead of your current state of consciousness. Practicing inner peace with a heavy and active pain body can thrust anyone into a spiritual awakening.

When I was just entering high school I had a very active pain body. I can see now how the emotional pain and the thoughts in my head fed each other constantly. This was a blessing because I knew something was wrong. I knew that the pain and anxiety was not okay. I remember telling my mom, as she was driving home from a friend’s house, that there was something wrong with me. I told her that the voice in my head was always coming up with horrible scenarios about the worst things that could possibly happen to me. It would come up with scenarios where everyone I loved died and play through how I would cope and what it would feel like. While that all sounds quite dramatic, it wasn’t until many years later that I realized everyone had a voice in their head that was making up various scenarios, many of which had negative outcomes. The active pain body was so uncomfortable that it woke me up to that voice as a “problem.” Instead of assuming that the mind is just the way it is, I knew it was causing me too much pain to be in its natural state.

Together the pain body and the voice in the head create the ego. They live their lives through you, and until a little spark of disidentification comes in, they are you. They make your decisions, they create your reactions, and they completely obscure the inner peace that is your natural state. The ego will cease to run your life the moment you realize it is not you. That is all that is required. That is where the practice of inner peace begins.

consciousness, spirituality

The Bed Bug Incident Part 2

I never found out what had been causing those bites for so many months. But the situation developed when I learned a couple apartments in my building had bed bugs and were having exterminations. I freaked out. Freaking out is a good sign that you are totally taken in by a circumstance and cannot view it at the higher vantage point of the true self, the watcher which is unaffected by what “happens” and is always whole. I wasn’t being the watcher, I was being a body threatened by outside forces. I took many precautions after learning my neighbors had bed bugs, putting things in trash bags, keeping the lights on at night, spraying poison around my door. But to the universe all of those precautions were really just me saying, “I’m afraid of something, this bothers me, I’m totally attached and identified with this situation.” That was the truth of the matter. I hadn’t let go. I was clinging to circumstance.

I was living in fear of bugs. For you this experience might have manifested in another form in your own life. About a month after the bed bug incident I thought I was in the clear. Everything was going to be fine. And when the thought that everything will be fine occupies your mind, that can be saying that you don’t feel fine in this moment, the only moment you will ever actually be experiencing. That very week I woke up with bug bites. These were very different from the ones I had been having all year. There were multiple bites and they were on my upper body not my legs. I even had bites on my fingers. The only thing familiar about them was the terrible allergic reaction. But the itching was even worse. I called the exterminator to inspect, and sure enough I had bed bugs.

The morning I found out I fell to pieces. You would have thought a real tragedy had struck. I was distraught, beside myself. I felt completely contaminated, as if everywhere I went would become infected by bed bugs. I didn’t want to tell anyone, I didn’t want to hang out at other apartments. Mostly, I never wanted to return to my apartment ever again. I no longer cared about my stuff, I did not want any of it anymore. In my eyes, the place would be forever contaminated.

This is a great example of a strong reaction. My reaction was a clear message of the feelings, fears, and beliefs I had been holding onto ever since my first bad bite from October. It was now May, and there was no more fooling myself. I was completely attached to my outer circumstance, and when my outer circumstance did not fit with the picture I had in my head of what I needed to feel safe, comfortable, and at ease, I caused immense suffering for myself. Suffering is often created by the outer circumstance not matching up with your thought’s picture of how things “should” be. This cannot be reconciled by more thoughts. The only way to stop the self created suffering is to recognize the thoughts and how they operate. The thougths don’t really want problems to be solved, even though that is what they claim. They want to keep thinking, that is their whole life up there in your head. They just want to stay alive. So when the outer circumstance doesn’t match with the thoughts’ visions, your mind will take that opportunity and run with it. Literally run, you know how thoughts run on and on in your mind. It loves doing that. But you are the observer of your thoughts, you have the ultimate control once you recognize that they are not helpful and in no way actually improve the uncontrollable circumstance.

When you have thoughts like this that keep running and cause you great emotional suffering, become very alert. Say to yourself, “what is my next thought going to be?” and then watch your mind until one comes in (a great tool from Tolle’s The Power of Now). Don’t judge the thoughts, allow them, give them your fullest attention. In this way the light of your presence will shine through the illusion that your thoughts can help you with their insane ramblings. Another way to quiet down an insane thought pattern is to bring complete inner acceptance to your outer circumstance even though your thoughts don’t want you to. Allow a situation to be. It will be the end of the mind using you, and the beginning of you using the mind.