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.

7 comments:

Jim Canto said...

I can relate...I have "pain" too. (the quotes indicate there are various kinds of pain).. but, here's the thought I wanted to pass along for your consideration:

All nature is but art
unknown to thee,
All chance, direction
which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony
not understood;
All partial evil,
universal good;
And, spite of pride,
in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear,
Whatever is, is right.

- Alexander Pope

Don't forget the wisdom in accepting that which you can not change.

Peace.
- Jim

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Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the kind thoughts, Jim!

La Petite Baker said...

Wow - lots of changes- may I ask why you and your wife are making so many drastic changes under this tough economy?
You are quitting your jobs! so many are looking for one - what's next for both of you?

BTW - this is Caterina from AT

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Thanks for commenting, Caterina.

We are in the process of radical changes. We are ready to leave cold and wet New England. For health reasons, we need to find a warmer and sunnier climate where we will be happier and healthier, and where we can thrive.

I know that it is a risk, but with our health it is riskier to stay here where we are unhappy than to go off into an uncertain future in search of more joy and health. It is a calculated risk, and we will use the profits from the sale of our house to start a new life elsewhere.

We have plans for making money on the road, including but not limited to my working as a travel nurse as needed.

Yes, we are doing what many choose not to do, but we are also letting go of the trappings of a house and the expenses therein. It is, as I said, a calculated risk, and I will be keeping my readers up to date on how that risk manifests in the real world.

Thanks for writing!

Keith "Nurse Keith" Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC said...

Thanks for commenting, Caterina.

We are in the process of radical changes. We are ready to leave cold and wet New England. For health reasons, we need to find a warmer and sunnier climate where we will be happier and healthier, and where we can thrive.

I know that it is a risk, but with our health it is riskier to stay here where we are unhappy than to go off into an uncertain future in search of more joy and health. It is a calculated risk, and we will use the profits from the sale of our house to start a new life elsewhere.

We have plans for making money on the road, including but not limited to my working as a travel nurse as needed.

Yes, we are doing what many choose not to do, but we are also letting go of the trappings of a house and the expenses therein. It is, as I said, a calculated risk, and I will be keeping my readers up to date on how that risk manifests in the real world.

Thanks for writing!

geena said...

I took a mindfulness class last summer. The first day I thought, "What on earth am I doing here?" but by the end I had learned some valuable lessons.

I am constantly in motion. Fidgety. My mind isn't quiet so my body isn't either, I guess. It made it very difficult to sit still in a room of people that were also sitting still! Eyes closed? Nothing to look at? No noises to focus on... it was very very hard for me to do.

Even I was able to tap in to some sweet spot in my mind. It didn't happen until the very last sessions, but it did happen and it was an amazing feeling.

I've never tried to get there again since the classes ended. Always something "better" to do, you know.

Anyway, the thing that finally did it for me was to imagine myself sitting in front of a window, just watching my thoughts go by as though they had been caught in the wind.

They also suggested watching your thoughts go by as though they were floating down a stream, but I could never imagine that as well as the window. They basically taught us that we should accept any thought that comes to us and then just let it float away, that we were to be bystanders and not actively think of anything - just let the thoughts come to us.

I ended up finding the whole thing very interesting and helpful overall.