And it’s just about the best thing to have happened to me in a long, long time!!!
Building on the theme I wrote about last week about controlling your thoughts and then, as a result, taking control of your life, I recently read a book that gave me so many of the answers and tactics I was looking for.
It literally has changed my entire thought process and led to some real breakthroughs that are present every day in my life.
The book is called Buddha’s Brain.
It’s not about Buddhism per se, but more about how our brain is wired and how to truly achieve mindfulness every minute of the day. The book has had a profound impact on me and I can honestly say as a result, my mind is as clear as I can ever remember it being (which I don’t think it ever was actually).
The book is written by two well-known medical experts. Here is a synopsis from Wikipedia:
“Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, PhD shares the current scientific research and investigations into meditation. Hanson, a neuroscientist and researcher, explains to readers the scientific studies in plain language and discusses the impact of the results. Hanson’s main argument is that positive emotions, like love can be strengthened through meditation in a neuroplastic manner, citing dozens of scientific studies to support this claim. Hanson’s viewpoint is representative of a larger popular movement to study and embrace Eastern phenomena including meditation in the Western world.”
Heavy, heavy stuff. Parts of it are extremely technical and medical, but most of it isn’t and it’s easily digestible.
Here are some highlights:
“When you change your brain, you change your life.”(heard that one alot in my discovery process)
“Develop liberating insight.”
“When you understand WHY you feel nervous, annoyed, hassled, driven, blue or inadequate, those feelings have less power over you.”
How we play these “mini movies” in our head all day, every day and how most of it never materializes and even if it does, the discomfort is incredibly mild.
One of the biggest insights is the concept of “First Darts and Second Darts.” This idea is about how the first dart is the actual event itself and the second dart is the replaying, constant overanalyzing and suffering we make ourselves feel. But how it’s not actually physical pain, it’s all emotional pain which when we remove the triggers and understand it as something else, it’s meaningless and more importantly, powerless.
“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” (that one got me!)
“If you simply stay present with whatever is arising in awareness-whether it’s the first dart or the second-without reading further into it, then you will break the chain of suffering right there.”
“The root cause of suffering is craving. The key is to have wholesome intentions without being attached to their outcome.”
“Equanimity is a perfect, unshakeable balance of the mind…Equanimity breaks the chain of suffering…Equanimity is neither apathy nor indifference; you are warmly engaged with the world, but not troubled by it.”
“Equanimity means NOT reacting to your reactions, whatever they are.”
“No self, no problem.” More on that later.
This was a big one for me…”Think without being caught by what’s thought.” WOW!
A big part of the book that really resonated with me, which is too long to get into in this blog, is the concept of Ten Thousand Things which essentially helps you see and understand with extraordinary empathy, every single person you might come in contact with in your life. It helps you see that they have their own journey, their own pain and suffering and that if you stop, think about what their particular suffering is about, you won’t take anything they say or do personally.
Just brilliant insights for me. And they go through great detail about how our brain is wired to react the way it does. How the chemicals we make in our body really are controlling us and our thoughts. But the brilliance of the book is how it gives you tactics and tools to undo most of this.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS BOOK…
For me, achieving a state of mindfulness by understanding that these movies in my head aren’t real, and they can be “turned off” was a true gift. It helped me understand how and why I react to situations with people and where my mind would go.
Probably the biggest impact was the analysis of the ego and how that is truly the cause of so much of our suffering. The concept of “selflessness” was really a breakthrough. Understanding that my own ego (which is essentially my own pain points, my self-imposed suffering, my desires etc., doesn’t actually exist is a fundamentally new way of thinking for me.
Here are some additional thoughts on that subject from the book…
“Awareness can do it’s job without a self”
“You are not your thoughts”
“Eliminate the words, ‘I, Me and Why’ from your vocabulary”
“Let experiences flow through awareness without identifying with them. Move, plan, feel and talk with as little presumption of self as possible.”
“Stop thinking — it’s not YOU, it’s your thoughts. Separate them.”
“YOU are the mindfulness of your awareness and your kindness and your love.”
“Kindness to the world is kindness to yourself.”
So what I have stopped doing is thinking of myself as my thoughts. If everything I do comes from just love and kindness, and I eliminate the “I, Me, My” from my thought process, my mind has such a tremendous capacity to give more, to learn more, to empathize more.
And without the thought process of “I, Me, My”, it’s amazing how much more room I have to be aware and mindful of the beautiful things surrounding me. And then the movies in my head stop playing as well.
Now when I go for a run, I see my surroundings. When I am in yoga, I think of how I am healing my body. When I am working, I am focused on solving challenges. When I am with family and friends, I am really with family and friends.
To experiment with this yourself, try and be mindful every time you use the words “I, Me, My” and understand that when you do, it’s your ego talking and it’s not really you.
This book really helped me lose my mind and find many of the answers I was searching for.
In the next blog, I am going to write about the concept of truly waking up every morning…