A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Overuse

Have you ever found yourself rehashing a conversation you had with someone? Have you ever spent hours wondering if you should say something to a certain person or what might happen if you do? Have you ever spun for days on all of the possible outcomes or scenarios of a specific situation?

As humans, we have evolved this amazing tool called the “mind” and along with it the ability to hypothesize and create stories. This served us very well on the savannah, say, when we saw tracks in the dirt. This desire and ability to figure out where the track leads and what might lie at the end of it probably saved our life. Unfortunately, most of the stories we now create in our minds not only DON’T save our life, they can be quite harmful to our overall health and well-being.

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One of my favorite past-times is to play the “what if” game. Even those of us who are self-aware and seeking peace in our lives can get trapped in this cycle. A certain amount of questioning and analysis can be useful and is the very thing that got me to where I am today. However, as Eckhart Tolle says, “Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without, but also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking.”

In my experience, we tend to over-analyze things in the hope that we “figure out” what it means or the “right thing” to do. The thing is, we cannot predict the future no matter how good we are at hypothesizing. And, "If you really want to know your mind, the body will always give you a truthful reflection, so look at the emotion, or rather feel it in your body.” (Tolle) 

So, why not end the incessant thinking and instead remain present and create space with our awareness? Here are a few things you might try:

Become aware of any feeling in your body. Sometimes that is all the data we need to make a decision.
Create space by observing your thoughts, not judging them, and breathe. For more information on this, read The Untethered Soul
Ask yourself “who would I be without this thought?” Byron Katie has some helpful tools as part of “The Work” which teaches us how to inquire our thoughts.

We cannot know for sure what the outcome will be no matter how much we analyze it. We cannot change what we have done no matter how much we think about it. All we can do is be in this moment; create space by bringing awareness to our bodies, thoughts, and feelings (where thoughts and bodies meet); and make choices in the moment that have integrity for ourselves and those around us.

What tools have you found successful to “power off” the mind? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.