Teaching people to be mindful is a bit like herding cats. They’re too smart and too curious to ever really control, but you can nudge them over when they get too far out of line. In fact, that’s what these blogs are for. My actual students are the ones who benefit the most because they’re drawing more out of these posts than most people would. But fundamentally they are using these posts to nudge themselves back on track. Staying in a healthy zone does get to be a habit thankfully, but you still have to maintain an awareness because slipping out of that state of mind is inevitable for without the opposite we could not know our health.
My students will tend to fall into groups in terms of how they come to know what it is I’m imparting, but they all share certain patterns to their understanding. One of the key ones is their first significant period of time out of their health. Say I’m doing a group course that’s eight weeks long. By week four people are usually starting to notice a difference and by week eight virtually all of them have a decent grip on what they have to do to continue feeling better. From that p0int there will be a few who simply don’t put in the most basic effort and naturally if you don’t actually make the changes, things cannot change. A much larger group earnestly tries to turn what they’ve learned into a verb. They remember the things they discovered and they use them and build on them and they are rewarded with increasingly beautiful lives.
Most commonly, a student will have about a three or four month run of feeling increasingly awesome and then something will trip them up. They’ll usually panic and call me, worried they’ve lost everything they learned. But of course you can’t unlearn things. They know it, they’re just forgetting it’s a verb and not a noun. They didn’t become conscious when they took my course, they learned how to be conscious. It is up to them to actually do that and usually just a quick reminder gets them back on course. Until…
Usually about a year to a year and a half later I’ll touch base. This is often when even successful people have slipped into the habit of thinking about the right thing to do rather than actually doing it. So they’ll tell themselves it’s important to stay conscious when what they should be doing is actually being conscious. Golf offers a good analogy: when referring to the importance of keeping one’s eye on the ball, it’s like the difference between having the lenses of your eyes pointed at the ball while you’re thinking about keeping your eye on the ball rather than simply actually mindfully looking at it.
Because they got healthier during the course, people often feel like they’ve failed when they get upset. That’s when I remind them that an unpleasant experience is a phase of being healthy, not sick. Again, I remind them that there is no in if there is no outside. We have to spend time there in an egocentric state of mind or the healthy state of mind cannot be recognized. The objective is simply to spend the least amount of time out of your health as possible.
Fortunately you have emotions. They’re very handy. They act as a signaling system regarding your thinking. Much like pain in your elbow tells you not to play tennis, agonized thoughts urge you to change the course of your thinking. Eventually people subtly remember how to get back in, and from there they just steadily bounce back and forth, spending less and less time out and more and more time in. Life circumstances may go up or down, but that is irrelevant to the wise person who understands what reality is made of.
You are not lost if you are out—that is an aspect of being in, just as heads on a coin is an aspect of tails on a coin. You need one to have the other. So don’t panic during times of lower consciousness. Just use your available consciousness to find the best thought you can and climb your way out from there. It’s really not that hard but people make it hard because they think it should be. But it’s always the same motion. Stop wanting, start appreciating. Repeat that action for as much of your life as you can and you will be a wise and successful person.
Have the best kind of day your current awareness will allow.
With love, s
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.