Mindful Ways to Unfuck the Mind
As some of you who follow me on social media know well by now, I’ve spent the last several days in Hawaii…
Nothing like a tropical trip to make followers in snowbound Denver perk up and smash that like button (follow me @outlawyogi on Instagram, and friend me at /outlawyoga on Facebook by the way).
Anyways, today the island and I had a little breakthrough…
My friend Simon The Coconut King of Hawaii – as I like to call him – showed me around his home at The Spirit of Aloha Temple and Botanic Gardens.
I met the kind-hearted steward of the land, a little Eckhart Tolle of a man with a great big smile named Swaroop.
(Sounds like ‘whoop’, as in ‘there it is’.)
After whistling several times to corral his doves into a flying choreography he offered me my choice of ‘magic books’…holding them out fanned like a hand of cards of someone playing a cosmic round of Go-Fish he let me choose…
“Read it cover to cover,” he explained, “and, when you have some question in your heart, turn it open to any page and put your finger down.”
Like spinning the globe and putting your finger down and claiming a little slice of enlighterment.
I passed my hands like Willow over the little volumes and grabbed Jewels of Wisdom, a pocket-sized collection of teachings from his teacher Swami Satchidananda.
Fighting the nap I wanted to be taking, I browsed its pages later that afternoon…
“Recognize the non-changing Self and the ever-changing. Only then can you have fun.”
Ok, I like fun…and, I can distinctly see the little, ever-changing rascally Justin that lives inside of me – I lately I lovingly refer to him as Shmustin.
So far, so good…
“Life itself,” the little book went on, “should be a game.”
I suddenly perked up – the line reminded me of a handful of cards that I keep in my wallet.
Underneath my ID, but before my PADI-SCUBA certification cards, lie several, handwritten notes…to myself.
I started doing this years ago – after a break-up, incidentally – when I was in a bit of a…call it, less-than grateful state.
Some negative thought patterns had taken root (as well as some unproductive action patterns – I was hitting this 5-gallon painter’s bucket full of Durban Poison that I happened to have on hand at the time pretty hard), and I decided to do something creative about it.
First – identify the pattern that has taken hold as specifically as possible.
Until you look right at it, you might be confused as to the actual ‘challenge’ being faced. Ever just been mad for no apparent reason? Some poor schmuck cuts you off and gets unloaded on not because their offense was so heinous, but because their offense is simply the most recent?
When you look right at the pattern, see it for what it is, and name it as specifically and succinctly as possible, it stands illuminated as if under a spotlight of awareness.
I am not grateful – I am, in fact, a little hateful.
(Or, whatever it is you come up with for yourself.)
Doing this lends itself towards the most specific antidote possible.
Next – devise a direct counterattack.
Every suffering is a product of the mind. Even if we insist on blaming others, we can point to their ineffective use of their slice of the one mind and still arrive at this basic conclusion.
When your only tool is a hammer, the saying goes, every problem starts to look like a nail…
Well, in this simple instance it’s more like every problem really is a nail…some are long or small, or big and gnarly and bent to all fuck, but the real challenge is determining which hammer is necessary.
Sometimes it helps to think of it as a mathematic reciprocal.
1 + -1 = 0.
So it goes, in a way, for the mind.
(This is also a super effective way to develop a personal mantra…for instance, if your most often negative repeated thought is I am NOT good enough, then the most effective antidote to that thought is its exact opposite, I AM good enough. The more personal and specific the better.)
The ‘solution’ then to the equation of an ungrateful mind then can be easily and accurately said to be creating a grateful one.
Luckily changing the patterns of the mind really isn’t rocket science – in fact, it’s really low level arithmetic…it’s hammer and nail kinda stuff.
Noticing when an unproductive pattern is present and replacing it with a productive one more often than not, until a tipping point is crossed and the new pattern has been present for long enough to establish itself into perpetuity.
The first part often being the most difficult.
Meeting the mind head on has more to do with boldness than genius.
For me this meant cutting a card from a piece of paper and hand-writing the new directive, “Right now I am grateful for ________, ______, and _______”.
Finally – put them into play.
The card sat on the top of a stack of several similar to it. I placed it on the top of the stack with great purpose and placed the stack on my bedside table…
Upon waking, I grabbed the stack like a little pile of homework to be done immediately upon waking.
No matter how ‘un-fucking-stoked’ to be waking up to ‘another goddamn day’ I happened to be for whatever habitual, fucking reason, I also woke up to this little, purposeful assignment that took no more than thirty seconds.
In fact, quicker the better when it stands between you and your morning pee, if you ask me.
“Right now,” I’d say out loud, “I’m grateful for…”
Until it became a new habit I had to really work for it.
(Ok, kind of a cop out, but you can always go to it to get the juices flowing – like a little gratitude doodle, or something.)
“Grateful for…a roof over my head.”
(Another stand-by for when a purple haze still hangs inside your brain.)
By then I’d actually be on the hunt for things to be grateful for, scanning the room for more interesting targets for my gratitude, scouring my mind metaphorically, or lifting and looking under the covers.
Always nice to have something to be grateful for under there, if you ask me.
The mind has now been tricked – or, perhaps, corralled – into searching for things, people, thoughts etc. to be grateful for instead of just dragging out it’s familiar occurrences or events to be ungrateful for.
It didn’t take long at all before I would get bored with the cop-out answers – eventually, you start expanding your search until a lot of surprising things, people, etc. start to fall under your expanding umbrella of gratitude.
“I’m grateful for…my brother coming home loud and late to give me a chance to get up early.”
The brain starts reframing, rewiring, and relearning all on its own.
The mind is the original AI.
It will follow the will’s lead, if the will decides to lead.
Throughout the rest of my morning constitution I would keep making my way through the cards…then carrying them in my wallet with me all day long and pulling them out to start all over again at the beginning should the moment call for it (e.g. as soon as I slipped back into ‘ungrateful-bastard mind’.)
By putting them in my wallet meant they went pretty much everywhere with me. While placing them on my bedside table pretty much covered the rest of the waking hours…
Over time, you may find that you have less and less use for them – the mind is a sneaky fuck that deserves our compassion and our constant vigilance…as soon as you have one challenge beat, one nail hammered back into place expect a new one to show its face.
I’d give them away to people, leave them places or simply discard them when appropriate. Reevaluating constantly and re-crafting the tool as necessary until, today, I happen to find myself carrying just one card in my wallet.
It lives there at all times (except for that one time that I was mostly at home for the COVID-19 pandemic when I used a magnet to affix it to the face of the fridge).
It contains a single directive that simply reads, “Remember this is all just a game that you do daily create.”
I chuckled at the synergy that had been served to me that day by Mama Maui (that same day I met a guy who used to live and work a block from me in Littleton, CO; and, a girl who graduated from the same high-school…).
Win or lose, mad or sad, I create my game for my slice of the one self to play.
Why cry about it when it’s you who has created it?
Ration and reason are powerful weapons against the suffering served up by the mind.
Simple. Perhaps profound.
Often the two are synonymous. Beware concepts and claims that can’t be understood by an eight or eighty year old, I say.
Smile (sometimes it hurts to be reminded, but it’s been proven to always be a scientifically effective weapon).
Be grateful (doesn’t take long for a gratitude practice to do some serious rewiring).
And be of service (start with your self and it will flow naturally to others’).
Try creating some of these simple reminders, employing a couple straightforward tools…creating and putting some personalized un-mind-fuck cards into play.
See if you like how you feel when you do.
Thanks for reading, and good luck Yogis!
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Justin “Jud” Kaliszewski is the best-selling yoga teacher and renowned creator of Outlaw Yoga. Author. Artist. Adventurer. Though his studio is currently closed per state order, you can still take his class NOW at outlawyogaclub.com and www.youtube.com/outlawyoga. Find his writing and art at www.justinkaliszewski.com and his presence all over the internet – for an outlaw, he’s shockingly easy to get ahold of.