We are what we think. We are what our busy mind, our uncontrolled mind, tell us we are, but we don't have to be. Here's what I mean.
At six miles long, rural Route 96 runs down a skinny pencil neck of land that is boarded by a bay, a salt river and the Atlantic Ocean. Route 96 is the shortest highway in Maine but it long enough to set my mind to grousing if traffic delays my travel. There is only one road to my house and to get anywhere to do anything I must drive that road. My home is near the ocean end and our nearest town is situated at the starting end at the only red light around for thirty miles. The neck of land where I live is a quiet place after Columbus Day, which is the last day that we see the tourists, so as often as not, not a single car drives past my home and studio for an hour at a time.
Today I was late for yoga class in town and in a hurry to get there. It is acceptable to go just under ten miles per hour over the speed limit around here so that is what I was doing in order to get to class on time but half way up the neck a rusted pickup truck with a driver much old than his truck--a respectable and mighty old fellow who I know -- inched out of his driveway right in front of me, and never saw me, because he didn't look and not for the first time. It set my blood to simmer and so I hit my brakes, and, watched him once again hit is brakes just as he pulled out onto Route 96, as he does every time he pulls out as, if the curve from his driveway onto our highway is just too great from him, and maybe it is at his age, and it will be for me if I ever get to be his age. He accelerated up to ten miles per hour below the posted speed limit and stayed right there. I was later by the minute and driving at twenty miles per hour below my original speed. I was stuck behind him.
My mind took a turn for the worse just then, "Oh no," I told myself, "not that old fella again in his white pickup! My timing is terrible! I'm late and I am not going to get there on time! If only I'd left home ten seconds early. He has nowhere to go and nothing to do, and is happy to take his retired time. He's braking on a curve, and what?! NO? He's not touching his brakes going up a hill? Oh, my God he is!!"
And suddenly I felt all twisted inside, terrible and sour. I believed my own story and it created negative emotions and my morning curdled. Whose fault was that? My own.
Surely you have been in traffic and been cut off and suddenly a good day turns bad. Mindfulness practitioners will recognize it as an example of the busy mind at work. The busy mind is the narrative we tell ourselves inside of our heads. It's our inner story that is always speaking to us, and we hear it even when we aren't listening, and we may not even know that we are hearing it.
Stop a moment and listen to what your mind is doing right now. What story are you telling yourself? What do you hear when you pay attention to your mind? What is it saying right now? Are you, for instance, singing a song inside your head? Can you stop the song? Can you stop the negative narrative that leaps to consciousness when that SOB cuts you off in traffic? These stories that our mind tells us aren't even real. They only exist inside of our heads and yet they color our world. What story is playing in your head? Our inner story creates and influences our experiences of life. Do you want to go through life living negative thoughts?
Mindfulness is practice includes the simple power to stop a run away mind, to cease a song, to end mentally flipping of the bloke who cut you off and ruined your day. He didn't even see you. His day was not ruined. Yes he cut you off in a moment, but your next six hours were ruined by that moment but they don't have to be -- your day can be a good day.
On Route 96, I listened in and heard in to my run away mind telling me a tale about that old man. It was a negative narrative and it crushed my good cheer, and filled me with negative emotions.
What did I do? I turned up the volume on my ever-present meditative chant that runs in a constant tape-loop in then back of my mind that slowly I build there over decades of meditation sessions--just like my teachers said it would. I turned up its volume and I held my chant gently in my mind with my breathe as I drove into town and it drove away my negative thoughts and emotions, and left me sitting in my truer nature, clear seeing, clear minded and an inner spirit of peace. It works every single time. Long practice of mindfulness gives the practitioner the ability to quiet the busy mind at any time and especially when the busy mind crushes your day. I had a good drive, a good class and a good day.
The thing about mindfulness practice is that is not magic, or mysterious, or mystical; it is practical and applicable and easy; a ready tool for a more peaceful interior life and it only takes a few minutes a day.