This was a casual conversation via Email so please excuse some of the little typos.
I really like your videos, and I think that they will help me change my life. I just had some questions I was hoping you could answer for me.
First, I was wondering how you came to terms with dying and also how you managed to find running around trees fun again.
To solve the first problem with dying, i guess that would involve using ABCDEF model to challenge your current views, and meditation would help you to not attach with your thoughts and help you break the habit, but that is one of the things i was unsure of that i was hoping you could help me with. Currently, i have been reliving everything i’ve done in my life that i feel bad about. i think of the selfish things i’ve done in my life behind my parents back, or behind other people. I have a hard time talking to these people now without feeling terrible because i think of everything i’ve done in my life. clearly this is ruminating, but i don’t know if i should come clean for the things i’ve done over the years.
On one hand, i have changed, and i have vowed never to do the bad things again, and i successfully don’t do any of them. on the other hand, i keep thinking that by not telling, i’m still living a lie today even if i’m not doing the things today. What makes it more difficult is i know telling things i’ve done in my life can only bring pain, and at an older age and worse health, i feel like telling my parents things can only bring the chance of just even worse health from hearing things. Deciding on what to do is hard enough, and even when i do, i reminate and go back and forth. I’m guessing the answer is the meditation that you speak of, but i guess i’m not fully understanding it yet.
I concentrate on my breath, which is supposed to take my mind away, and then i see my thoughts without holding attachment, and over time i’ll be better able to throw away bad thoughts/emotions? i’m a little unclear on how i should do this. please help :).
As far as you finding happiness running around trees again, that one eludes me completely. we’ve talked about removing negative feelings, but i’m not sure how you instilled those positive feelings of joy and happiness of running around trees. I wasn’t sure how ABCDEF or meditation did that one. I would love to feel that joy again along with losing a lot of the negative thoughts that always make me sad.
This also ties back into my original problem. Because of the guilt i feel, i often wonder if these things mean i don’t love the people close to me in my life. I don’t know if it’s the negative thoughts that have me caught up in this, but it only brings me more negative thoughts and worry to think that i might not love the close people in my life. I know i love them, but i can’t feel it. I’ve read that there are ways to cultivate these feelings, and i imagined it would be similar to the way that you have managed to cultivate happiness in running around trees and other aspects of life. Please help provide insight with this too.
I guess since i’m taking the time to write the email, i’ll throw in one last question that i was wondering. I was just wondering how meditation will help me with changing between focus and being. I play an instrument myself, and i thought this whole being and focus could really help me with the creative aspect, and then turning around and structuring it better.
i hope to hear from you soon.
glad you like the course. Here are some answers.
1. I came to terms with dying by reading and learning about it. It was simply something I never did before and it helped me a lot to finally accept death as part of life. Training acceptance with the help of meditation also contributed to that.
2. I would recommend to forgive yourself. It sounds to me that no harm comes from your lies of the past to anyone so I would not consider it necessary to talk about it with others if it simply brings up negative emotions in them. The notion of clearing things up in the past is in my opinion romanticized in movies and also just a way to offload guilt on others. Nothing changes because the past is the past. Accept what you did and do not forget it but also do not feel bad about it and just use it as a reminder that change is possible and that you live now life as a better person. Acceptance is big here as well.
3. To get this feeling of being a child again (this running around trees stuff) takes time. After a longer period of time of training mindfulness and living in the moment you learn to take life in as it is, without judging and without categorizing.
There is a study, the name eludes me right now, but in this study zen monks had to listen to an audio signal again and again with small breaks in between. The area in the brain that gets active when the brain processes something new became active each time they heard the signal while in a control group of regular people it became less and less active. This study showed that mental training can help to perceive things as if they were new over and over again.
The reason why our childhood was so different was because we had this sort of “beginners mind”. There is also a Zen saying: An experts mind sees just a few ways while a beginners mind sees many.
4. If you practice meditation it raises your base level of concentration. My meditation practice has helped me to get better and work more focused in many areas. I guess it would do the same for you. In general meditation is an exercise in acceptance. You use the object of meditation (your breath) to have something to focus on while you just observe the thoughts that will still arise. There is really not much more to it. The training helps you to accept your thoughts, understand them better and (this is a big one) do not take your thoughts too serious.
I really hope I expressed my thoughts in the right way. I read a lot of things about this in the past but just by experiencing it myself I truly understood all this.
I just encourage you to go this way. It’s awesome and puts your life on a whole new level.
For more details about meditation read “Mindfulness in plain English“. Great book!
I had emailed you a while back and I had a big concern that scares me. If we learn to accept everything, block thoughts, etc, then what is left of us? Don’t our things we like to do come from our our mind? what scares me even more is what happens to the love we have for our family, etc? Is the love between a mother and son nothing more than some categorizations of the mind that can be learned or unlearned? It scares me to go down this path because I don’t want to give up so many things from my life. Am I misunderstanding everything?
good question. I had the same question on my mind in the beginning. What you learn is to get control over your thoughts and as a result your feelings. There is no point in limiting any positive feelings (other than one can be too attached to one sort of positive feeling and become dependent on it which again would be negative).
It is true that this acceptance training makes you less prone to be impacted by feelings. If my mother dies today I won’t be as much bothered as I would have been 5 years ago. That has nothing to do with love or not, it is simply that I learned to take things as they are instead of fighting situations I can not change.
We also never “block thoughts” or feelings during meditation. We let them be and just learn to gain control over our reactions to them. If one of our reactions isnt helpful we unlearn this pattern of thinking by simply not jumping from one thought to the next and so on.
If you have learned once that when someone blows a whistle you jump immediately then in the future after training your mind you simply hear the whistle and it is up to you to jump or not. You unlearn automatic reactions and that gives you lots of control over you life, freedom and makes you emotionally more resilient.
You learn that life can be any way you want it to be. You learn that you have options and not external stimuli determine your mood but your reactions to them.
Here’s another question that would help me and probably other people who visit your site.
If we have this much control over how we react/believe, then who are we? What I mean is, if so many reactions are within our control, does that mean there is really not that much special to each and every one of us? Are we just a compilation of beliefs that can be changed and in turn there is no real core that is “me?” There’s just a current program of the mind?
If someone else chose to, could they learn to become like me or you? Does all of this include our likes and dislikes as well? Are they not special to us?
I have liked guitar for many many years, but lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by taking in all this stuff, and I don’t even have the urge to play guitar anymore. Is that because I’ve untrained some mental responses? I’m fearful of accidentally untraining a lot of happiness and likes, and i’m fearful of the idea that everything about me is not me, but just layers of trained beliefs. It’s tough because I like the personality that I have and don’t want to lose it, but I begin to wonder if it’s even me.
Also, there are some aspects of my life that could use a beneficial different outlook for the sake of happiness, but I feel like it’d become a very precise and difficult task to start fixing these issues while at the same time maintaining my personality. I’m hoping there’s something wrong in a lot of my conception and that i just don’t see it, but you’ll have some clarification.
good question again. You ask the right questions. First of all nothing bad comes out of all this. When you practice mindfulness for some time and get more control over your inner processes, some sort of layer of calmness and clarity comes to your life. It’s very pleasant.
I did not want to cover talking about the concept of “me” and ego on the site yet because it will just confuse a lot of people and the course so far is meant to give people just actionable advice but here is a short / basic version.
There is no me. You are right, what we think of as “me” are just layers of trained beliefs. Me or you are nothing but a body with a brain and a bundle of memories and expectations that make us who we believe we are. We are some of the few animals with a story we can remember, with hope and fear and so on. However this story was created, it also shaped our beliefs and most people think this is their “me”.
Humans like to see what they know as “me” as something special, mysterious and pretty big. It is not.
I’m Scott and I enjoy playing the guitar. Maybe that’s an outdated belief? Maybe you are Scott and enjoy playing the flute much more you just don’t know this. Or you still love to play the guitar but other activities feel simply more important. All this doesn’t matter because it doesn’t change anything. These are just thoughts or beliefs in which you compare a state you are used to (enjoying to play the guitar) with what is going right now (not really feeling like playing the guitar) and as a result negative emotions come up (fear of losing this part of your “me”). Is spending time with this sort of thinking helpful?
I would take this thought as a reminder that you did enjoy playing guitar and nothing more. Accept that you do not feel like playing guitar anymore and see what happens next. Or maybe just sit down and start playing and see how you like it. If you don’t sit down to play then in the time you are not playing guitar you might discover your next passion. Even if not, it is pointless thinking about it or trying to “fix” it.
Life is full of sooooo many factors we can not influence that, if you want to enjoy life, you have to get very comfortable with uncertainty and embrace change. Don’t cling to old beliefs or you spend a lot of time trying to fix up old beliefs just because you think they are part of your “me”.
Realizing that there is no “me” is a bit of a shocking event but also really liberating. Because that “me” is just a bundle of beliefs, you can be whoever you want to be. Changing your beliefs does change you but there is a big difference…
Most people simply “consume” life and a lot of external events shape their beliefs and their understanding of who or what they are. They do not shape their own beliefs actively and so the automatic reaction to external events create their “me”. The goal of my Psychology course is to give you the tools to change this. You learn to create your own beliefs by having more control over your reactions to external events and therefore gain the ability to be what or whoever you want to be.
All this does not come by simply understanding these concepts (even though it helps a lot!) it comes from training to be in the moment, being mindful and open to whatever comes your way. Basically you can not think your way out of this. Training the state of being, your awareness and acceptance by doing mental exercises such as mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to move in the right direction and gain more control over your inner processes and thereby more freedom by being able to control your reaction to external events.