Remember that scene from Fantasia where Micky Mouse was the sorcerer's apprentice? He was feeling overwhelmed with work, so he used the power of the sorcerer's hat to turn a broom into a helper (so he could get out of working and relax). He was so delighted that he soon fell asleep, only to awake to a castle that was quickly filling up with water. When he tried to destroy his little wooden helper, it only multiplied and created a real nightmare. Micky desperately tried to find a solution in a book, but it was too late–the broom helpers were a force he just couldn't control and all hope seemed to be lost. Finally, the sorcerer appeared and restored order. Mickey took back to work with a renewed sense of humility (and hopefully a little wisdom).
Micky Mouse in The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Micky's troubles began when he tried to use a power that was beyond his ability and they escalated when he unconsciously allowed his imagination to run wild. Even after he woke up, his problems continued to escalate until it seemed that all hope was lost.
When viewed through the lens of mindfulness, it's easy to draw a parallel between the use of a 'magic hat' and a common tendency in people to think that the answer to their troubles resides outside of themselves.
It's also easy to see that Micky let his imagination run wild, which eventually caused him a great deal of anxiety and stress. His life was out of control and going down the drain–literally.
The inability to calm one's mind has often been described using the term "monkey mind," likely due to the idea that monkeys are 'bouncing off the walls' with energy and never sit still. This concept might be in need of redefining, since every time I've ever seen a monkey, they appear to be quite calm and peaceful (with the rare exception of when they are fighting or playing, but even them they seem to calm down quickly). Perhaps we should want our minds to be like a monkey after all, but let's take the common definition as true - that our minds can seem out of control and beyond our ability to calm.
Thoughtfulness tells us that our minds are more like puppies, eager to please us by helping to solve all the problems, both real and fictional, that we might entertain. The mind is a problem-solving computer that uses trillions of neuro-connections and pathways to inout, store, and retrieve data. It also cross-references (associates) information very quickly and presents us (the user) with myriad possible 'solutions' to our 'problems.'
So rather than think of your mind like a crazy monkey (or out-of-control broom) that you need to run away from (or chop into tiny bits, as in the case of Mickey's helper), treat your mind as you would a puppy - an eager one.
What's the difference?
Compassion. Mickey had an adversarial relationship with his magic helper. There was no authentic, loving, compassionate relationship. Even his hat belonged to someone else. Rather than think of your thoughts as "making you crazy" - as if they don't belong to you. Take responsibility for them, and understand that all that activity is your mind's way of trying to help you.
A Thoughtfulness Practice:
When your mind races and fills your internal 'movie screen' with a seemingly endless array of anxiety-producing images, realize what is happening. Namely, your mind is working to help offer you possible solutions to situations - both real and imagined. First, have compassion and astonishment for this eager puppy-mind. I sometimes imagine that I can talk "to" my mind. I might say "Wow - look at all those thoughts you're making! That's amazing. You are really quite special." I know this might seem odd, but changing your relationship with your mind changes the dynamics inside your head - and that's a good thing.
Second, find a way to "let your mind know who's in charge." This could simply be to internally acknowledge the offerings of your mind, allowing the running movie to exist without following it too closely. In other words, don't believe everything you think. Just sit back and know that it's a movie. Enjoy the creative energy that goes into it. Be amazed - not crazed.
The difference between Monkey-Mind and Puppy-Mind is that we have compassion for the later. We understand that the busy work is our mind's way of trying to help - AND we take responsibility for that activity, like we would for our own puppy or our child. We don't make our mind wrong or punish it (ourselves) for having lots of thoughts. Instead, we show gratitude and interest, like we would with a child, and we continue, knowing the difference between what we think and what we are.
When we are centered in our beingness, we can allow any number of thoughts to flow through our imagination without loosing our balance or feeling overwhelmed. The key is compassion - Compassion ends Monkey-Mind and creates a loving (and often fantastical) relationship with our own thoughts.
What are your thoughts?
Share, Like and be at Peace.