Saturday, March 26, 2011

Breaking Free from the Broken Record

"It's never to late to be free. Too often we make our own cages. Of the mind. Or the heart. We have the key to unlock them, we only need the will to use it. Set your mind free. Make your own decisions. Unlock your heart, love freely. Unlock your mind, live freely."

It's easy to get caught up in our heads.We often get stuck on thoughts that could seemingly be nothing until we put it on repeat and suddenly it's like a broken record, playing over and over again.  We forget that a thought is simply that, a thought. It requires no action, no emotion, no internal debate, yet we do all of those things because we thought about something and held onto it.

A teacher of mine once said that the best way to deal with thoughts is to separate yourself from them. To step back and imagine that you're looking out at yourself watching them pass you by, one by one, like a movie. The key is to learn not to react. I once read somewhere that to truly see and understand you must imagine you are on a train at night, looking out a window. You can see everything outside, passing you by, and you can see your reflection inside, still and quiet. You're an observer of two worlds, neither one more than the other, yet both a part of you, and you get to decide which one you partake in and how at each moment.

I speak from experience on the broken record piece. I know how it feels to hold onto something, to let it drag you down. I'm not saying it's easy to snap yourself out of it just like that, but what I am saying is that with practice, patience, and most importantly awareness, you can free yourself much quicker. You can even see the lesson you were meant to learn from the experience.

When I was having a hard time with something I promised myself I would work on being grateful for all the good things in my life. Each morning I would come up with five things to be thankful for and each night I would do the same. It started out easy..."I'm thankful for my family, friends, all of my limbs, my dog, and a job that pays my bills."

As time went on I had to dig a little deeper. "I'm thankful for...electricity, indoor plumbing, air conditioning in this desert I live in, my school, and coconut water." Pretty soon I had covered everything important and semi-important and I had to really get creative. "I'm thankful for, um, Google (to answer all my random questions therefore preventing me from driving to the library and spending countless hours searching for one thing with the Dewey Decimal System), a washing machine (so I don't have to beat my clothes on rocks in a river), the iPod (so I no longer have to use a walkman/discman and haul around twelve zillion CD's in my car), Orlando Bloom (no explanation needed), and deodorant (because it had to have been a very smelly world before that came along)." Before I knew it I was in a good mood, laughing at the ridiculousness of what I was thankful for, yet still being very thankful and appreciative of all of those things.

I've practiced the thought observation and I have to admit, it's kind of awesome once you get the hang of it and fully understand. You feel, so very in control of whatever you truly need at that time. You are no longer a slave to your thoughts, you are the watcher of them, like a shepherd herding your flock of various ideas, concepts, perceptions, and values.

One truly great leader of this process called Mindfulness is Jon Kabet-Zinn. He is an artist of awareness and I highly recommend his work if you're interested.

The next time you're mind is acting like a rusted wheel, unwilling to let you move on to a different subject, take a deep breath and try and see yourself watching this idea, this thought, pass you by. If at first you don't succeed, don't freak out. Nothing important happens overnight. Just keep trying and keep breathing and eventually you will find yourself being free, one moment, one thought, at a time.

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