– Ozzy Osbourne, Changes
I need to make a lot of changes in my life and lifestyle or I’m probably not going to make it to my 50s, unless I’m some thirty-five stone stroke survivor, shoehorning myself into a mobility scooter and being regularly warned by the police not to chase the pigeons in the centre of Carlisle.
I don’t want to be that man, even though the pigeons thing sounds fun.
I’d like to live a long, healthy and happy life, but unfortunately I’m miserable most of the time, I’ve had a headache for three months and I frequently think about ending myself.
How do I move from this negative haze of suffering to that shiny, spangly positive existence with friendship and laughter and adventure?
It’s pretty easy, really, and that’s quite annoying.
I have a few pressing financial issues that scare me a bit too lots, but when I meditate or catch my thoughts and use that as a trigger to engage in conscious awareness, the bills really don’t matter any more.
It’s only when I think about them that they seem important and I begin to get stressed.
While I meditate, the bills fall away from my thoughts and are entirely not an issue at all, but if later, I were to pick them up and read them again, I’d end up tossing and turning (not a euphemism) in bed for hours, wondering how I’m going to pay, thinking how much of a loser I am to be in this position, thinking I should buy a tent and some other camping basics and go live in the forest, with the squirrels, and if I can’t handle that, either, at least I’d have a lovely view when I merrily hanged myself.
What is causing this pain – this emotional stress and anguish that I feel?
Is it the bill? Do the Inland Revenue imbue their parchments with an intangible sense of doom?
No… once again, the culprit is my fucking brain! My own brain! It’s my brain that’s thinking all these ridiculously negative thoughts, throwing them at me when I’m trying to sleep, like some bus hijack gang throwing random passengers out of the emergency door to slow down the cops.
My brain (who I don’t get along with most of the time, to be quite honest) is the thing that makes me panic about things; it’s the same thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies when I see a big spider, even though the spider has done absolutely nothing except be spidery and unusually large; in confidence, it’s the same thing that spontaneously still believes in vampires, witches and ghosts when I’m having to walk down a mountain in the dark, and when I reach the tree line and walk into the forest, everything suddenly looks a lot like The Blair Witch Project in the light of my headlamp.
My brain is an idiot and it bullies me. It sells me fake news. You’re likely in a very similar position, even if you haven’t had extensive mental health issues. Any fear or doubt or drama you engage in that restricts your potential to experience a full and wholesome life is cooked up and served to you by your brain.
Practicing conscious awareness (mindfulness, as the Buddhist lot call it) helps us to put our brains in their place again; showing them that, actually, they’re not the boss of us… we’re the boss of them!
They’re supposed to do what we say, but we’re so often in that semi-conscious auto-pilot mode – just trudging along through life and trusting our brains will do the right thing – that eventually that state of being has become the norm to many or even most people in this world.
All of our emotional pain… all of it comes from the brain. It doesn’t matter how much you think someone else has hurt you… the pain is inside you, created by you. There’s no ethereal link between victim and aggressor, so it’s not as though the aggressor will feel increasingly sad and ashamed of themselves the more their victim cries in silence, alone.
Fortunately, we can turn the negative ramblings of the brain off simply by engaging conscious awareness, and it’s really not that difficult to do. It takes a little practice, perhaps, but once you ‘get’ it… you walk through a gateway into a new world of opportunity and adventure.
Conscious awareness is simply a case of engaging the senses, which in turn overpowers and silences the mad ramblings in your mind.
Look at things. Listen to things. Touch things (not other people – not without permission!) Taste things; rather than just eating, make the food the focus of your awareness and savour every mouthful.
That’s all it takes. If you’re in low spirits, you really can, right now, allow yourself to let go of whatever it is that’s causing you pain and distress, and focus your mind on something far more beneficial to your life – living in the moment, at peace with yourself and all those around you.
I know, from long experience, it can be difficult to ‘flick this switch’ during times that really test us, but once you open that door for the first time and find that there actually is peace within, if we choose it, the door never closes again and, as if by magic, the doorway is never far away when you need it.
So that’s how I’ll be able to move from this rather grim life experience of the moment into something brighter and more comfortable – and I don’t mean I’m stoically preparing myself for another three year of bleak hardship until I get my own house and a record deal. I mean that, right now, when I’m aware of my thoughts – as I am more and more frequently again – I’m able to dismiss anything negative and just get on with the task of writing this blog.
Over the course of these two pages (aka wall of text), I’ve actually moved my mindset from negative to positive. While I was frowning when writing those first few words, now I’m actually smiling and feel recharged.
It really is that easy.
If there was a switch device for sale – available in all the fancy stores – that you could simply flick and turn on contentment and happiness, or flick back and feel emotional suffering… it would probably sell in extraordinary number, don’t you think? Would you buy one?
Well, the thing is… you already have one.
I’ll write more about how to ‘engage’ conscious awareness in another blog, soon, but in the meantime, stay in the moment… and beware the Moon!