One of the magical discoveries of mind is language. It is a gift that makes us human, above animals The language that we have developed has helped us in a great way. Human civilization reached such heights because of the language. Language is the tool by which our mind translates feelings into thoughts.
For rational thinking, we need to communicate with our own mind, and here, language becomes a great tool. For example, if you have to think about a scientific experiment, you cannot work without language.
However, this language can be the biggest trap for us when we combine it with emotions. Emotions make things right or wrong, doable or undoable, wanted or unwanted.
And stormy emotional wiring can completely cloud the rational observation. So, basically, it is not about right or wrong; it is about being able to see or not able to see the whole picture.
And that’s how the language traps. And this is true for all languages.
How Language Traps
A language is a tool for evaluation. The mind is constantly evaluating everything and forming conclusions for our handy-use. For example, when you see a snake, the mind can conclude that you are in a dangerous situation.
However, if you have a massive pile of emotions connected with snake, or death, you might die of a heart attack even before the snake moves, Because the language in our mind overwhelms us with all the possibilities and emotions associated with death.
Your fear of death can even cloud the capacity of your senses. What if it is just a rope that looks like a snake! You can see it only if you are in a sane state of mind.
The key of mindfulness is to develop an attitude of friendly curiosity, interest, and acceptance of all observed facts, just like a baby. A baby might not be scared of a snake, even a lion! However, some of us might get scared even if we see a snake online. This story is just a small example of self-made language traps that we face every day.
Judging the situation is not a problem, however fusing yourself with a thought invites all the emotions related to that thought. For example, say to yourself – I am going to die. Now suppose you are an African tribal who does not know English and he just repeats the verbatim “I am going to die,” he will feel nothing because he has no thoughts to associate with this sentence. But if he says the same thing in his own language, he will have certain emotions reaction to the meaning of this sentence.
Now, if you say “I am going to die,” the moment you fuse yourself with this thought, you will feel a vast range of emotions connected with this thought, which is justified. But mindfulness reminds us that IT IS JUST A THOUGHT! NOT A FACT.
If a motivational teacher tells you to say “I am going to have a great day,” to yourself, you will not feel great if you do not associate yourself with the related feelings. That’s where most of the motivational courses fail. It happens because here you know that it is just a thought.
Now being positive has its own loopholes, because it is one side of the coin. When you are positive, you carry an inevitable possibility of turning negative. We can try to stay positive for most of the times. But in this way, we just go rotating from the positive to negative, just like a coin. I would say that negative thinking is rather relaxing ; it is as natural and spontaneous as rolling down a hill.
Positive thinking is more like an uphill climb. This artifice is the reason why, after some time, people get really tired of positive thinking. You see, the problem is not the direction; it is the gravity!!! If there is no gravity, it does not matter in which direction you climb; it is all effortlessness!!!
Here I can compare the emotional load to gravity. I have to keep thinking positive because there are lots of negative programs running at the background in my mind.
Have you ever tried working on a terrible internet connection? You cannot open too many windows or perform too many actions at the same time. If you do, the computer becomes super slow. I was not aware of why my laptop was always so slow. Later I found that I have a lot of unrequired programs running in the background. And after I close all of them, my laptop appeared as good as a supercomputer.
I believe that we have to think positive, just to balance all the negative emotions running in our subconscious. And we have to keep trying harder. Now, let’s imagine that you have lots of unwanted programs running in the background. What is the real solution? To shut them down or to start opening more and more windows, make more effort to work!
I often used to do this earlier. Because one window was too slow to open, I would open another one, so that I will be able to compensate the time lost!!!! Super crazy, isn’t it? In this way, I was just increasing my problems. And so many times, my computer crashed, and I lost much valuable data.
I feel that we all work in this way. We try harder and harder to think positive. We blame ourselves for negative thinking. We make huge efforts to avoid negative thinking. It is like an ostrich which buries its head in the sand when it sees the danger. And most of the motivational lectures push us in this wrong direction.
I think that once the undesired background programs stop running, you don’t have to insert extra memory in the computer. Because there is no end to it, you can keep opening new programs and never learn to close them. The only solution you will ever have is to increase the memory. And one day, you will run out of memory resources.
This happens to the “positive people” most of the time. They have a severe crash down once the unaddressed emotional backlog becomes too heavy to carry. Then they tend to dive deep into the ocean of negativity. See, the higher you climb, the greater will be the fall and all because of gravity!!!
So, the real solution is to close the background programs, to remove the gravity, but does this means to be in a state of no rise-no fall, no activity, near-death existence — none of it.
Imagine that you are traveling in a car and you have to talk to the driver in sign language, that’s the only mode of communication. And you keep crashing because of inevitable miscommunication or delayed understanding.
But you have to put up with the driver because without him you are lost. So all your survival instincts, your focus is glued on better communication. And that drains all your time and energy.
But, there is a second solution which dawns on people too tired of the serendipity of a possible right or wrong communication – learn to drive yourself. I feel that the second option is always better.
We are so used to our emotional programming that without this load, we might feel dead. It looks like not a load, but a protective covering. Once we recognize it as a load, it will be gone in a flash. Probably, this is called the moment of liberation or salvation.
To see these negative thoughts, these background programs, as they are, is the final solution. But not so fast. Here is the major hurdle! When we look at a deep valley, we have a higher chance to fall. My mother says that depth is alluring; it tempts you to fall. And yes, I have similar experiences.
So the major problem is that when I look at a negative emotion, I fall. I embrace that emotion and become one with it. I re-traumatize myself with all the pain, fear, anger, or hatred I faced in the past. I become a thought!
We all must have observed that people die once, but their close ones kill them more often by recreating all the past experiences over and over again.
Here comes the ultimate solution.
For example, let us take the most dreadful experiences – near-death experience, like drowning, car accidents. People who survive carry a constant emotional load of such incidences.
When a harrowing past experience re-emerges in my mind, I do not join the band-wagon – “OMG, such a bad thing happened to me, it might happen again, what will I do, I am all lost and…. blah blah
Neither do I try to shoe it away or sweep it under the carpet. I don’t try to look away and change my thoughts – “let me think positive, it happened, and now it is over. It might never happen again; I will be able to control it this time….blah, blah
As animals work on biological reflexes, humans are guided by language reflexes. And it looks so normal, not to think but be driven by thinking! Here we can start THINking!
I have to see that it is just a thought, a thought about drowning or about suicide or the death of a dear one. It is not a REAL INCIDENT happening RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE. Every time this happens, we have to ask ourselves, is it real and happening right now? No, it is a thought, just a thought.
This simple awareness cuts down all the emotional load, all the gravity that makes things look heavy. This is mindfulness.
I will give you my example. While writing all this, many thoughts occurred in my mind, and it is natural. This is the job of mind; just like a secretary, it continuously suggests for your kind consideration. However, you must be knowing that if the boss is a novice, the secretary runs the office! Nothing wrong, it’s natural…
“ I am writing such nonsense, maybe nobody will read it.”
“No, it is a work of art. I am going to provide a way to enlightenment.”
“Also get a lot of money too, at least it will manage the basic promotion.”
“How can I think in this way, it is so arrogant and mean.”
“I feel bad; maybe it is actually nonsense.”
“But I must push and do this; maybe it will bring some good or at least some money :)”
Being positive and negative is like day and night, inevitable! Any pressure to be positive is unnatural and killing.
But CHOICE is mine, whether I make it consciously or choose to bump into it. I can choose to be aware and recognize these thoughts, say “no, thanks” to the mind and focus on what I REALLY want to do – to work! Not to be happy, excited, sad, angry, humiliated by my thoughts, because they are thoughts, they are not me.
Now your mind might be like an authoritarian secretary, who keeps pushing you with a torrent of thoughts! this should be fine, because that’s what the mind is trained to do, in fact, you have allowed it to behave in this way, and it got trained so. However, since you have changed your approach, you can tell so to your mind. After all, it is your mind.
Let’s do some basic mindfulness exercise –
Watch something on TV that’s boring to you. Simply watch it and be observant to all thoughts that come to your mind.
It will be great if you can note some of them in your diary.
Watch something mildly interesting and follow the same process.
Watch something thoroughly engaging and see how you get absorbed in the flow. For example, if you are playing a video game, be aware of how you become one with the game. See if you feel bad when you lose.
The raisin experiment –
Let’s make a small attempt to look at the bliss all around us
I have peanuts as raisins get a little expensive for me. You can choose anything.
Put a tiny amount in your mouth and keenly observe its taste.
Observe your breathing for 1 min. Try this often, every hour if possible.
Observe the thoughts that pass your mind during this one minute. See if you get caught in some thought and start to follow its trail.
I am a novice in mindfulness, not a master. But I can tell you one thing. There is not much information to capture. All we need is a sutra, the end of a thread, catch hold of it and gradually undo the colossal mind fabric and learn to knit it the way we like.
Let’s all try it together!