Instead of identifying with all that you think and feel, try this: step back slightly from your own inner experience of your mind and self and see your own thinking from the point of view of an observer. Try to hold what your mind offers you with less attachment. Instead of “I am afraid,” think “Oh, there is fear here.” Instead of “I am angry,” think “Oh, there is anger arising somewhere in this whole system that is me. What is causing this anger to arise.” Instead of “I am anxious about ____,” think “oh, anxiety, my old friend, you are back again.” As we step back from our minds, from what is happening there, we find a spaciousness that doesn’t exist when we identify with what the mind offers. Normally when I think “I am afraid,” the emotion of fear arises and we lose our ability to be rational and at peace because our thought has joined with the accompanying emotion; we are lost to maybe hours or days of time being consumed by this conjunction of thought and emotion.
Jim Carrey in a one-minute video on You Tube commenting on Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth says that he can spend several hours of his day creating scenarios in his mind about a situation: if he says this, then I will reply _____, over and over again. If we identify with the mind’s repetitive offerings, we are living in the past or the future, not in the present. We waste time when we are not in the present, because the present moment is the only one we can affect.
Holding things lightly means not identifying with these states, but only naming them. Naming is a way of recognizing the states of mind, but not being driven by them. We’ve stepped back, we’re noticing, we’ve created a bit of space between us and what the mind offers us, we named what we notice about ourselves, but we don’t identify with it. When we name our states of mind and maintain even a little bit of distance from them, the fear or the anger finds no place to land, so to speak, and evaporates after a bit of time. If we don’t welcome the fear or anger that comes with the repetitive tapes that run in our minds, it will move on. If we don’t attach to it, become the state it proposes, then the old scenario goes away. I’ve seen it happen within 15 minutes. It’s a powerful thing to experience how we can affect our own moods. It’s not a matter of controlling, but of freeing them. Without an anchor or attachment in us they can evaporate. It is a matter of being moored: do we want to spend time today ruminating over this old scenario from our mind or do we want to be more present, more creative with our time? Which will it be: anchored in the past or future or free to move about?
Jesus taught this principle two millennia ago: in Matthew 16:25 “whoever wants to save their life, will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” [NIV] The more we cling to our own version of reality, the less we are able to live in truth. It’s all about what we identify with. If we identify with the small self, the way we’ve always thought about things, the more we live in the past: our version of the truth, our expectations, our assumptions, even our own lives. What we let loose, surrender, let go of will be given back to us much more fully. If we will allow God to transform our thinking so that we think much more like he does, then we are living in the truth, not just our version of it.
Here’s an illustration of how this works: we form ideas about our parents based on our needs as we are growing up. If our mother, for example, doesn’t provide what we needed during our childhood, we form opinions about her based on how she failed to meet our needs. We don’t see her as a whole person, brought up in difficult circumstances perhaps, but only from our own perspective. We hold onto our own opinions about her sometimes for a whole lifetime. At some point, maybe after we’ve discovered our own limitations as a parent, we begin to look at her differently, we begin to forgive her for not meeting our needs and see her as someone who suffered as well, someone who may need our forgiveness, someone who did the best that she could, given the circumstances of her life.
When we’ve gotten to this stage of forgiveness, the way we’ve thought about her for years slowly slips away. It no longer fits the picture we hold of her; we’ve let go of our childhood perspective and see her from a broader perspective. We’ve gone from a “knee-jerk” reaction to her based on past experience to a more loving stance based on seeing her more realistically. We’ve gone from being attached to a certain way of looking at her to a more embracing way. We have gained some freedom from the past way of thinking; she has gained from our releasing the judgment.
Just because you think or feel something doesn’t mean that it is true. But the more attached we are to some opinion or our own version of what happened, the less likely we are to live in the truth. So observe what your mind offers up, step back from it: can you see the source of that opinion? Would you feel the same way if it happened today? Do you have any freedom from your thinking or are you driven by how you think about things? Would you be open to changing your mind and how you normally deal with things? The freedom Jesus offers us is grounded in the truth, the whole truth, not just our version of it. Are you ready to embrace the whole truth?