“Managing the mind” is a phrase I use to express a couple of potentially powerful healing ideas. The first understanding is how we view the mind. In the West we tend to see our minds as ourselves. Yet if the mind is something we can manage, then we are more than it. Being more than the mind, we can choose not to be run by the thoughts or feelings that it generates.
Years ago, I commuted across the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Driving home one evening I was feeling tired but relaxed after a good, hard day at work. Suddenly a driver decided it was time to move from the 4th lane to the 1st, without bothering to use his indicator or consider the cars between him and where he went. I quickly braked, and felt the adrenaline shoot into my system as I went quickly from fear to anger. I told myself, “this idiot could have killed me!” when I became aware–perhaps because my car was getting harder to control as I drove faster–that the peaceful mood I had was gone. Then a thought occurred to me: “Why should I let this person’s actions ruin my evening?” So I slowed down my driving and my breath. I made the conscious choice to let go of my outrage, no matter how righteous. I breathed out those feelings and returned to a state of peace, suddenly in awe of the power in making that choice.
Another aspect of “managing the mind” is calling it ‘the mind‘ rather than ‘my‘ or ‘your‘ mind. The better we understand how our own minds work, the better we understand how people’s minds work. We are all human, despite our different histories, choices and belief systems. We all bleed, love, hate, envy, desire, suffer, fear and know moments of peace and awe. It may seem ironic but the more we can honestly examine how our own minds work, rather than being a narcissistic pursuit, this can open us to becoming more more skillful in relating with one another. As we learn to look with understanding and compassion at our own motivations and reactions, the more we can “get” and have compassion for how others react.
This is not about trying to control or suppress what comes up in the mind. Some of what comes up is good and useful. It is about remembering that we can choose how, if and when to express that which arises. Our thoughts, feelings, and impulses are a part of what we experience. But we do not have to let them to control us.
I welcome you to share any stories of how you chose not to be controlled by the minds reactions, in ways that enhanced your experience.