Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mind as a Train

I've been under a considerable amount of stress lately. My wife and I are quitting our jobs, selling our home of 11 years, leaving our hometown of 17 years, and starting a new life. Plus I have chronic pain and several other troublesome health problems. In the presence of these concurrent and challenging life factors, I am striving to maintain my emotional equanimity, mental stability, and a healthy lifestyle.

Watching how my mind works and the suffering that I experience when my mind gets the best of me, I can see that my mind is often like a runaway train. There are apparently no brakes, the passengers are screaming bloody murder, and the only refreshments available in the cafe car are drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, junk food, slothfulness, and a host of other unhealthy habits to which we humans so frequently succumb when under duress.

As this train hurtles down the track, I try to disengage and hop off at one of the platforms that whiz by at lightning speed, but it's difficult to get up the courage to simply be calm in the eye of the storm and trust that I'll land on my feet if I jump. And when I do indeed manage to simply stand on the platform and watch the train racing past, my hand will often get caught on one of the train's many handles, and I'll suddenly find myself being dragged alongside the speeding train, once again falling victim to the mind's subtle tricks, even though the only thing I need to do is let go.

Apparently helpless and at the mercy of the chugging engines of ego, depression and anxiety, I am frequently dragged alongside my churning mind, and my body is whipped against telephone polls, street lamps and signs along the way. As I struggle to gain my footing against this consistent onslaught of worry and anxiety, my shoes are torn off, and my bloodied feet drag along the ground as the train continues on its inexorable path.
These images may be graphic, but I feel that it's important to identify the feeling that one experiences when the mind's runaway train controls the trajectory of one's life. It seems that the train can happily speed along it's one-way track of worry and rumination perfectly well with or without my participation, so why not choose to simply sit in the grandstand, drink a cup of tea, and watch the action from that calm vantage point?
I admit it. I daily fall victim to my mind's attempts to keep me worrying, to keep the fretting fresh and new, to continue to enslave me to its wiles. But now, 45 years into the game, I'm beginning to catch on, and I'm seeing the ways in which I make myself miserable. I am determined to continue to learn how to get off at the station, rest my weary self, and be a witness to my mind. The lessons learned from that watchfulness and awareness---often called mindfulness---are ones that I will be sure to share here with you, Dear Reader. If you have a story, tactic or anecdote to share about mindfulness and self-care, please leave a comment, and I will be sure to respond.
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