1 Simple Way to Free Yourself from the Mental Prison
Have you ever wondered if the mind, with its incessant stream of thoughts, ceases to think at the moment of death? I have. I wonder if we ever get free from our whirling mind. I am no expert about the after-life, so I cannot speak with certainty about that. (I have some beliefs about that, but I’ll spare you from them.)
How would anyone really know what happens after death, anyway? I suppose only those who have come back from the dead could tell us, right? But, I’m not even sure about that. The only thing I can know and speak honestly about is what I know right here, in the here and now. When my mind isn’t grieving the past or fearing the future, I am grounded in the present.
Years ago, my friend Byron Katie, along with couple of friends and I, were headed to a Houston prison to do a process she calls ‘The Work’. I was intrigued to discover that the prison was located smack dab in downtown Houston. Shouldn’t it be in the country, far away from civilization?
We entered the front doors of the prison, and upon providing identification and turning over our possessions, we were promptly escorted separately through three intimidating metal doors, each of them locking behind us before the next one unlocked. As we entered deeper and deeper into the prison, I could still hear the eerie echo of metal doors slamming against the metal frame that encased it, and I suddenly realized that “I” was in prison, with no way out, until someone said so.
Our escort led us to a room and seated us at the very front with our chairs facing one hundred hardened criminals, who had already taken their seats and were just awaiting our arrival! I got the impression that we were their entertainment and the perfect excuse to get out of their cells for an hour.
On our drive to the prison, Katie said she wanted to give them an experience of a quiet. ”They probably never have experience silence either in their mind or in the prison,” she said. I wondered how in the world she thought she was going to do this. Good heavens, I had only had a quiet mind twice in my entire life. This should be amusing.
After being introduced by the warden, she walked to the front of the room, stopped firmly in one place, and stood there in complete silence. Not a word or a single sound came out of her mouth for at least five minutes. ”Say something!”, I silently screamed. The internal discomfort was just too much. I watched in awe as she quietly took complete control of that room, and captivated the attention of, not only my own busy mind, but a hundred scary looking prisoners.
Before she uttered a word, she made eye contact one-by-one with every single man in that room. If she came to a man who wouldn’t look at her, she didn’t move on to the next person until he looked up and made eye contact with her.
Those five minutes seemed like an eternity! My God! What nerve! When she opened her mouth, those men were all ears! She had their attention and they couldn’t wait to hear what was going to come out of her mouth and neither could I. There was palpable stillness in the room. You would have been able to hear a feather drop, if that’s even possible.
Watching her reminded me of that television commercial from the seventies or eighties, ‘When E.F. Hutton speaks, every body listens!’ That day, instead of E.F. Hutton, it was Byron Katie dressed in what looked like a muumuu, complete with Birkenstock sandals. Sure proves that real power has nothing to do with the way you are dressed.
She once said to me, “Your problem, LaRue, is that you believe your thoughts.” Heavens, yes, I do! Aren’t we supposed to? I’ve been conditioned to believe my thoughts my entire life and now you are suggesting that I’m not supposed to? My memory of our conversation went something like this: ”There is nothing wrong with believing your thoughts, LaRue. However, when you are tired of suffering (suggesting that we suffer because we believe our stressful thoughts) you may want to inquire to see if your thoughts are true or not,” she gently said.
But, I wanted to believe my thoughts. Even if they were creating stress and fear, something about them gave me a sense of comfort, despite the fact that it was a false sense of security. It gave me, at least the illusion that I had some control over my life. If I questioned my thoughts and beliefs, and found them to be false, what may become of me? Would my world crumble around me? Would I be so totally out of control that I would fall into an eternal abyss and never return?
Fast forward a few years. When I became completely exhausted from my fearful thoughts and illusionary aspirations, security, and control, I started to question them. As I asked, “Is it true? Can I find one peaceful reason to hold this thought? Who would I be without it?” Peace would fill me. My mind became quiet and still. I could feel the warmth of my inner being inside me.
I find it ironic that today marks the eight-year anniversary of my sweetheart, whom when he couldn’t stop his mind to get some peace, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
That event, as you might imagine, had a significant impact on my life. I began to question my thoughts. The peace that came from questioning them felt so good that I vowed to question all my thoughts so that I could remain in everlasting peace.
Then, my humanness returned and I would get caught in a mental spider web until I realized, once again, that I was entranced by my thoughts again. It was not until I began to feel frustration, intense fear, or confusion that I would awaken from the trance and realize that I had become entangled in the web of my mind.
I like the way it feels to be at peace. Now that I know that state of peace more consistently, it doesn’t take me as long to recognize when I’m in NOT in peace. Distress is a wonderful thing. It’s like a light on the dashboard of your car, signaling you to pay attention. Questioning the distressing thoughts frees me from the bondage of the mind, and it will for you too.
You may be wondering what this story about the mind has to do with the Whisper. Let’s face it. It’s downright difficult to recognize the Whisper with the mind screaming and spewing scary thoughts at you. And, even if you do recognize the Whisper, it’s hard to trust it when the mind is sputtering thoughts of self-doubt. Was that the voice of guidance? What if I trust this and I make a fool of myself? What then?
Here is one simple action that can help you take a step back and get free from the mind.
Watch your thoughts. Simply observe the thoughts dancing through your mind, as though you are watching actors on a stage. Doing this for just three minutes will begin to free and unravel your self from the tormenting thoughts. In a matter of moments, the thought that was terrorizing you and about to give you a heart attack is just that-a thought-nothing more. Nothing less. It no longer has the power to control your emotions. It loosens its grip and you are out of prison, at last.
I invite you to practice this on a daily basis for a while. Do it at lunch, or at a time when nothing is really bothering you. Pretend you are eavesdropping on your mind. By practicing with the easy stuff, you’ll be prepared when the big emotional kahuna strikes and the scary, ominous thoughts attempt to scare the life out of you.
All we ever have is the here and now. Believing our thoughts holds us prisoner in our own mind. We don’t have to be prisoners. We can simply watch the incessant stream of thought fade back into the nothingness from whence they came.