I’ve been reading “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” by Dan Harris. So far it is highly entertaining. He says our mind secretes thoughts the way our stomach secretes digestive enzymes. The endless internal chatter is a normal bodily function.
“It’s only when we get a break from our endless mental churn of opinions, obsessions, and exuberances that we realize how completely exhausting our so-called normal state is. The mind is constantly finding and making problems. As it settles, there are fewer problems. It’s that easy.”
He reinforces how it’s not the thoughts themselves but your reaction to them that matters. He had a couple of descriptions of mindfulness that I thought were great. One was that it’s like using the picture-in-picture function on your television. Instead of the thoughts filling your whole screen, you shrink them back and get some perspective on them. The other description was to visualize your mind as a waterfall. The water is your noisy, nonstop stream of consciousness. Mindfulness is the space behind the waterfall that allows you to view all of those thoughts, urges, and impulses without getting swept up in them.
He says that happiness is not something that just happens to you; it is a skill. Wow! I can see that now, but when I was busy getting smashed under my waterfall, a lot of my narratives went like, “I’ll be happy when I _____ (lose the weight, get the raise, buy the thing, win the lottery).” I was always placing something between me and happiness, making it dependent on external forces instead of realizing it was an inside job. With that mindset, even when you get the thing that was supposed to make you happy, you’re never satisfied. There’s always something wrong or something new to worry about.
The cool thing about mindfulness (which is a skill you can learn) is that it shuts off all those past/future stories and allows you to just BE in the present moment, which is where happiness lives.