Taming Our Mind

The year had been pretty dull in terms of business in Nigeria. There were many compounding factors that made matters worse. Fresh elections were scheduled early next year and corporates were not willing to loosen their purse strings. The government bodies were engulfed in pre-election euphoria. The Ebola virus had slowed things further and the terrorist insurgency in the North & North-East had paralysed markets in those regions.

The futile situation set me thinking on a different plane. We create our problems by wanting things, or people, to be different. We create our own problems by the simple strategy of wanting things to be different to how they actually are. We need to understand the art of taming our mind!

I was expecting my team to change the sales style in a short time to adapt to the swinging patterns in the market. In a subtle, unconscious way, I was saying that I knew better than the other what is good for them, and this naturally created a wall of resistance. In a relationship, it is like taking on the role of a parent and diminishing the other into the role of a child. Is it any wonder I got negative reactions from them, even though I was convinced I was acting in the best intentions?

And in fact, if we are really honest, our intentions are always in our own interest. If we really respected the other, we would accept them as they are, we would dignify them by letting them decide how to live their own lives, even if it doesn’t fit with our ideas. Even if they are on a path of self-destruction, it is their decision. This is my understanding of real respect for individuality.

And anyway, what right, what business, do we have to assume we can interfere in someone else’s life? And it is the same with ourselves – wanting ourself to be different is like saying to existence that we know better. And this creates such a tension in us. We are all unique – we are all unrepeatable, incomparable masterpieces of existence. If existence has so much respect for us, who are we to question ourselves? But of course we do it all the time. And that is how we make our lives miserable.

Acceptance of individuality is enjoying, celebrating ourselves and others as the utterly unique, and imperfect, beings that we are. It has often been said that the issues we managers choose to work with are in fact our very own issues. Incompletion is the way life is. We are trying to become perfect without accepting our imperfections. If we were to accept our imperfection, from where can the problem come? We cannot accept the way we are, hence the problem.

It is over the past few years that I have learnt to accept the way I am, and my problems have gradually reduced. I know that I am not perfect, but I have started enjoying my imperfections’. I have learnt that our problems only exist in the mind. Situations are there, problems are our interpretations of situations. We need to understand the art of taming our mind!

It looks good in a blog, but what does it actually mean?

From the moment I decided to test this concept, it changed my whole attitude towards my ‘problems’. I confess it was not easy for me to do so. Being a staunch Virgo, my mind much preferred to live with fears and worries. But the interesting thing was that, once I managed to crystallize the issue – to pin down what was really going on, and what was the worst thing that could go wrong – suddenly it was no more a problem. There was simply, a situation to be dealt with.

Our mind is incredibly persistent. It needs ‘problems’ to chew on, and the more complicated, the better. In fact, the mind can make a problem out of anything, can’t it?

When I realize I am in the middle of a major issue, I learned to say, ‘This is the mind’. Just like that, without any judgement, condemnation or fight. This simple statement of fact gives me deep relaxation. Then I realize I have the choice – I can go on being absorbed in the ‘problem’, unconsciously getting involved with all the fears and projections my mind is creating, or I can have a very direct and clear look at the facts of the situation. What is the actual ‘problem’? Is it real? Would it necessarily be a problem for anyone else, or is it just a problem for my ego? And the beauty of being honest with yourself, and looking clearly and directly, is that the answer is always there in the situation itself.

In my experience, it takes courage to question and look at a problem from a different perspective. It also takes courage to accept the reality of a situation and its inherent solution – it is usually not what the ego wants to see and hear.

In a way, problems are part of our identity. Who would we be without our problems? But the rewards of dropping this unconscious identification are immediate. The deep inner relaxation that comes with acceptance and understanding brings space and new eyes to see everything afresh. To see that life is simple and enjoyable. Just do it!

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