Sometimes the mind feels good. It feels ok with itself, with the world, with other people, and in those moments it feels very good to be alive.
But many times there are problems, life does not come the way we expect it, and the mind does not feel so quiet, so at peace; quite the opposite, it feels stressed, anxious, upset, fearful, and in these moments, what most people do is go to substances like sugar, alcohol, tabaco, or to one of the many things people do to get distracted, to get away from their own mind.
And this is how most people live their lives: busy, busy, busy, and when they have a little moment, they cover that moment with more activity in order to get away from their minds.
Because it is truly not pleasant to experience oneself when the mind is disturbed. It is really painful.
The reason I am saying all this is because I believe that one of the most important resolutions we can make for the New Year is to learn about the mind.
We think we see a world out there, we think we see other people, we think we see ourselves, but in reality all we see is the mind and then trough the filter of the mind we see the world, other people and ourselves.
The mind is like an app, a very beautiful and amazingly complex app, and like any app, it needs to be studied and understood.
How to do that? Do we use psychology? Phiolosophy? Books? Observation?
Yes, all of the above.
There are many maps that one can use to study the mind, and some of them may seem different and/or contradictory, but in my understanding it does not really matter. We just need to choose one of the many maps and study the mind.
In the words of Epictetus, one of my favorite philosophers:
‘It is not what happens to us but what we think (and feel) that happens that actually matters.’
Or, in a different translation:
‘We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts (and feelings) about what happens to us.’
Now, the mind is such a complex ‘app’ that even if one studies it for years (and one should keep studying the mind for as long as one is alive), one will rarely truly understand it completely.
And so, together with learning about the mind, we need to learn to quiet the mind, to create space in the mind, to discover silence in the mind.
Because if we don’t the only thing that can help quiet the mind are substances. And of course, the problem with substances is that they don’t really help, they actually ruin our lives…even a little thing like a piece of chocolate, which seems very little and innocent. The problem is that it is never a little chocolate, we always want a bit more and then some more and more, and then even without realizing it, we get addicted to chocolate, or whatever substance/s we are using…sugar, tabaco, social media, talking, Netflix, etc, etc.
It is truly painful to be dependent on things in order to quiet the mind.
It is much better to learn to quiet the mind, to learn to create space in the mind, and this is what we can call mindfulness. I sometimes call it presence with lower p.
It is the possibility to return, to bring the mind back from thought, from worries, plans, fears, concerns, memories, from thinking, thinking, thinking to the experience of this moment right now.
Just for a moment, after you read this paragraph, take a few seconds, close your eyes (or not), take a deep breath, pay attention to the breath, and just Be.
Create a space in your mind in which you can Be.
The moment, the experience of now, is prior to the mind.
The mind is what describes the moment. The mind is what says: what a nice moment, or what a difficult moment, or I don’t like this moment, or I wish this moment would last forever, or millions of other possibilities.
But presence is the experience of ‘what is’, prior to the description of ‘what is’.
And this possibility to take a moment and to come into the breath, or to the sound of music, or to the colors of a tree, or to the sensation of the sun on the skin, or to the taste of tea…to come into what appears in the moment without describing that moment is to Be, to just Be.
Instead of going to the substances, instead of going to the fridge to check if there is something to eat (even if I am not hungry at all), instead of smoking another cigarette, instead of going to Facebook or Instagram or whatever my favorite social media is, instead of talking to somebody even if I have really nothing important to say, instead of eating another pastry (when I know I should not have eaten even the first one), I come into myself, and Be.
Instead of getting lost on the many thoughts, instead of going back to the anxieties, to the worries, to the fears, to the concerns, to the troubles, to the disappointments, instead of going back to the mind, we take a break, and come into Being.
Trying to discover the reasons behind the fears and anxieties and worries is part of what I call studying the mind. And we need to do that. Sometimes in that study we reach some resolution, sometimes we don’t.
But independent of that, we need to learn to return to the moment, to create space in the mind, we need to learn to Be.
And this capacity to Be, at the beginning, is like a skill that one learns, is like a capacity that one can develop. And like any skill, like learning to drive or learning how to paint or playing a musical instrument, it needs practice, it needs dedication, it needs patience and it needs lots of desire to learn it.
I will highly recommend you to include it as one of the resolutions for the coming year: I want to learn how to be more connected to the moment, how to use less substances and instead come back to ‘what is’, without the thoughts and worries and concerns that usually come with it; I want to learn how to Be.
Then, in time, if the desire for it appears, if the spiritual search opens up in our heart, we may discover that that Being that was so difficult to access and to keep is actually always here, always available, always at hand, always present.
And not only that, we may discover that Being is actually what I am.
We think we are our mind, we think we are the thoughts and emotions that appear in that mind, we think we are the fears, and anxieties and concerns and worries, but when the mind is more quiet, when the possibility to rest in Being appears, then we may discover that what we are is actually aware of all these thoughts, emotions and difficulties.
We discover that those thoughts, emotions and difficulties come and go, but what we are, the awareness of these thoughts and emotions, does not come and go, it is always here, always present, always now.
This discovery is what I sometimes call Presence with a capital P.
It is the discovery that the practice of presence is only a step; it is the discovery that I Am, always.
For sure not many people will be so interested in it, but if you are, it is the most important and beautiful discovery that anybody can make: I am the Being, I am the Awareness aware of the problems, which means that I am not the mind, but ‘that’ which is aware of the mind.
I Am That.