“If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” – Buddha
I was thinking about meditation and saw the quote above. I think the big guy is both right and wrong here.
Reason being that as far as I can understand it isn’t actually about controlling thoughts per se. It’s easy to confuse terms here. The word “mind” comes with a lot of connotations. One of them is linked to our “thoughts”.
What a lot of people, including myself at first, tried to do was to move away from negative thoughts and be more positive. Nice aspiration to have of course. Highly unlikely? Damn skippy!
Because of many varied reasons in my life I developed a “what’s wrong with the world?”-attitude. For the longest while it wasn’t constructive. Criticism without offering a solution is just complaining.
Then I found several outlets and that ability really turned into something positive both for me and others. It also worked to make things better!
After some time I got high on the positives and concluded that I somehow needed a more positive outlook. Here’s where things started going south for a while. A lot of people I admired had this really positive vibe and I started to emulate it.
I noticed that it took a lot of effort but thought: “Hey, it’s a process! Deal with it!”. So I stuck to it. Then something weird happened. Not only did I spend more time trying to work things through with clients. I also lost momentum in other aspects of my life. I just felt wrong. Like I wasn’t supposed to be so “negative”. I’d lost my confidence and sense of self.
It was some time until I got back around to embrace those parts of myself again. When I did, it started feeling a LOT better. I don’t regret exploring that side, I just found a new appreciation for what I can do for people by just being me. Which is why we’re all here.
See, the problem was that I tried to control my thoughts and imagined it would make me and others happier. Really didn’t though! Negativity gets such a bad rap. We all need protons, neutrons AND electrons!
Here’s the meat of it, we can’t control each and every thought. They are what they are. What we do control is whether we act on them or not. You don’t push your best friend off the bridge just because the thought crosses your mind. You’re NOT an evil person for having that thought. No matter what “PreCrime” tells you!
I saw Louis C.K’s “Oh My God” and he said something that really beautiful. The joke was about the two voices in our heads going “Of course..!” and “But maybe..?”
One example of these voices was: “Children who have nut allergies need to be protected of course, but maybe… If touching a nut kills you… You’re supposed to die.”
The audience laughed because it was so ridiculous, also they could recognize themselves having similar kind of thoughts.
Then he says something more poignant, with a little uncomfortable laughter from the crowd.
Of course, if you’re fighting for your country and you get shot or hurt, it’s a terrible tragedy, of course, of course, but maybe, maybe if you pick up a gun and go to another country and you get shot, it’s not that weird.
He won them over slowly, but then he said: “Of course… Slavery is the worst thing that ever happened!”
The crowd laughed really uncomfortably with some “ooh’s” thrown in for good measure. Louis responded to the atmosphere by saying:
Listen, listen, you all clapped for dead kids and the nuts. So you’re in this with me now, do you understand? You don’t get to cherry pick. Those kids did nothing to you.
He gets us to admit to ourselves that this is what we as humans are like. We don’t get to make that distinction and only choose to look at the funny, absurd thoughts and ignore those really dark issues that face us in the real world.
This is comedy writing and performance at its best. When it coaxes us in and gets us really reflecting. Louis was that gentle guide who knew that going straight into one of the worst things in history would not be comfortable.
We needed for someone to take our hand and say: “Look at this, do you see something you can relate to here?”.
Then prepares us with a dose of reality and gets us to look at something distant but a bit darker that we still have some pride about. He basically says: “We’ve come this far, let’s go a bit farther”.
Then he delivers something that makes us really uncomfortable and something that we’ve enjoyed the benefits of throughout history. He says: “Don’t look away, this is us. This is what we’re capable of.”
Of course he does this in the funniest way possible, but it’s still a wonderful marriage of humanity, creativity and art.
This is why I felt that Buddha was both right and wrong.
We can’t necessarily wrestle our thoughts into submission, but maybe we can choose to accept them for what they are. The rest is decided by which thoughts guide our actions.
I’ll let him have the last word though!
“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” – Buddha