We talked about Mind Shafts here.
So how do we dissolve these mind-shafts? Dissolving mind shafts can be practiced simply and easily as we go about our day. At the end of the day, when we find that conditioned thinking has labeled the day as a bad day or a stressful day or a depressing day, we can review the day in our mind, and make mental notes of three types of thoughts which caused that label to be applied.
- Identify the actual emotions we’re feeling (i.e. sadness, anger, whatever the predominant emotion is, in the current moment). = Emotion
- Note the labels that conditioned thinking has applied to the emotion (frustrated, mad, defeated) . = Label
- Note the story that is keeping that emotion and label in place (things should/should not be like this). = Mind Story
- Identify the actual situation, independent of the label, or the mind story, or the emotional reactions to the label and mind story. =Reality
Conditioned thinking says “today was a terrible day!”
1. We notice the actual emotion.
2. We notice the label, the evaluation.
(Example: Terrible day )
3. We identify the mind story.
(Example: “he should not be so harsh and judgmental”)
4. We recall the actual situation (reality), independent of the evaluation (label) and the mind story, or the emotional reactions to the evaluation.
(Example: Father spoke in a loud voice to us.)
Several important realizations can occur, every single time we make use of this technique, and it can be used effectively in any moment there is a sense of disturbance (i.e. stress, uncomfortable emotions, uncomfortable thinking, etc.)
1. We notice that conditioned thinking has globally labeled our memory of the day in a certain way (“globally” meaning: the concept of “entire day” has been evaluated and judged to have had certain qualities), and we notice that emotions have arisen, based on focus on the labels which support conditioned thinking’s conclusion (“terrible day”). There were actually many non-terrible moments during the day, but attention focuses on the thought-labels which support conditioned thinking’s conclusion.
2. We notice that the emotional reaction is always to the label; the evaluation and mind story; reaction is never to a fact. Mind-shafts are shafts made by focus on the mental and emotional reactions to the labels generated by conditioned thinking. Mind-shafts are a closed-loop of conditioned thinking which are utterly independent of the actual situation. If the facts of a given moment are labeled differently, the reaction of conditioned thinking is different, and the conclusions of conditioned thinking are different. “One person’s heaven is another person’s hell”, as the old saying goes.
To one person, “father speaking loudly” might be an everyday event; an event they are used to experiencing; and therefore, an event their conditioned thinking doesn’t evaluate in a way that sadness is the reaction.
To another person, “father speaking loudly” might not be considered harsh or judgmental, just his style of speaking.
To yet another person, anger could be the emotional reaction instead of sadness.
To another, momentary disturbance might be felt, based on specific conditioned thinking, but the evaluation about the conversation isn’t connected with any label about the nature of the entire day.
And so, realizing this, we can notice: reaction is never to a fact, but only to evaluation about facts.
Now, if it was a bad day or a “feeling down day”, we can consciously remember the moments in the day when we felt happy. This is the gap which breaks up, or dissolves, our sense of having had an otherwise bad day.
For instance, maybe we enjoyed some morning tea; or maybe we smiled at someone or someone smiled at us. Maybe we laughed at a joke, or saw something that made us smile. Maybe we enjoyed a favorite song, or show, even for a few minutes, and so on. Remembering these pleasant or enjoyable moments, we can realize that these moments break up the imagined “continuous shaft” of unpleasant memories of each day.
We can identify these moments that don’t fit into the labels/mind stories creating a sense of “low day”, and then break the day up into bite-sized memories of happiness and bite-sized memories of sadness or other “low” or “down” feelings. Doing this, we can thereby realize that the lows aren’t all connected, and that it wasn’t really a “low day”, after all. Rather, it was a day comprised, as all days are, of a fairly full spectrum of thoughts and feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant.
We use up a lot of physical, emotional and mental energy (hence the physical, emotional and mental fatigue, which we call depression) in connecting the conditioned evaluations which create the sense of lows. Conditioned thinking then takes these mind-shafts and connects them, in order to make an imaginary mind-shaft of “one big low.” This isn’t to say, by the way, that depression isn’t an actual medical condition; it certainly is, as many of us know. Our purpose here is to uncover some of the dynamics which magnify depression, and artificially hold it in place. Depression is not a natural condition; it results from a combination of mental habits, and/or related biochemistry. When the causes of the mental habits are seen through, they dissolve. When these conditioned mental habits dissolve, they no longer increase any depression-related biochemistry.
And so, dissolving depression-related mental habits, while doing things that dissolve depression-related biochemistry (such as exercise, engaging in spiritual practices, connecting with people, medication and so on), combined with the genuine, honest desire to be free from depression, can and does free one from depression. Realizing this, we can come to see a fundamental, empowering fact: stepping free from depression is within our power, and the means to do so is freely available.
We start out with small things,; simply observing that the day is made up of moment by moment by moment, and that each moment is free of the previous (memory) and next (imagination), and that reaction is never to a fact, only to evaluation, will help us in dissolving these mind-shafts. And, amazingly, we’ll find that when all this artificially constricted energy is freed and allowed to flow naturally, that thinking mind naturally rests.
At first the shaft may be imagined to be years long.
For instance, conditioned thinking displays the thought:
“I have been suffering from depression for 10 years.”
Well, with some simple observation, we can see that the depression we felt 10 years ago, and the one we felt 5 years ago, and the one we experienced 6 months ago and the one we experienced a week ago, are not the same. We connect these and make it one long imaginary mind-shaft. In fact, if we are willing to remember any such time-frame honestly and accurately, we can see that any given time period had almost as many, or in some cases, more moments which were experienced as happy, or at least acceptable, in comparison with depressing moments.
And, so to dissolve these shafts, we can go back and identify the moments when we were not depressed. We can remember how we enjoyed a party or a movie or a vacation or a night out or a book or a trip or a job, and thereby see how these happier moments broke up the imagined “10 depressed years”. And so, the single shaft of 10-year-long depression is now broken into smaller “bite-sized” memory-shafts of depression. It no longer is a huge monster, but rather, a series of manageable “little monsters” that bothered us, over the course of 10 years, a time period that was happily interspersed with “little angels” of happiness, peace and enjoyment at times, too.
Then, we’ll try to break up the current day; maybe break it down to half a day. Then as we keep identifying these breaks in the day, moments when you are not feeling low, a miraculous thing will begin to happen. Half-days will refine to hours, hours to minutes, minutes to seconds, and we’ll experience the reality that each moment of life, perhaps a second or two in duration, apparently, is utterly independent of the previous moment and the next moment. Ten seconds ago is every bit as dissolved as ten years ago. Ten seconds from now “hasn’t happened yet” as much as ten years from now “hasn’t happened yet”. It is all happening now, in reality.
The second technique is actually finding the gap (which is experienced as silence) and living from this gap. This is a more advanced technique and worth trying, if however it seems impossible to do, let it go for now.
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