Skip to main content

There’s a great deal of societal emphasis on presenting life as a competitive encounter, a challenge to see ‘who can reach the sweet life in time to grab the goodies, for there’s only so much stuff left to go around.’ And dwindling social safety nets, spiraling healthcare costs and constant pressures to perform amidst educational institutions and workplaces add untold stress to the mind which, by default, is already set up to fret and worry. After all, our brains have the same structure, regions and circuits as they did roughly 40 - 50,000 years ago, which was the last time we humans had an evolutionary transformation—and during those times the brain’s wiring was set up to survive each day without being eaten. You’d think we’d be calmer now that we’ve attained the dominant species status, but we’re living in the same cognitive set up, only we’ve replaced outrunning wild animals with the stresses of a go-for-the-gold rat race; an unfriendly expression on a supervisor’s face can create almost as much mental agitation as a roaming, wild boar. In other words, we’re still anxious and often unhappy in life.

This state of worry manifests itself in a continual need to be industrious, achieving, eager and upbeat. Job listings ask for people who are “zealous” and “thrive amidst pressure” capable of “multitasking” with “demanding deadlines.” To be means to be busy. When someone asks “How ya doin’?” the expected answer is “Busy as always, you?” Any other reply falls outside the encouraged and mandated. If we’re not animated and hyper, we’ve “taken our eyes off the prize.”

Relaxing and breaking from the race can leave us uneasy: what’s revealed is the underlying fear and foreboding that propels us through our time on earth. We might actually locate an unease that’s difficult to tolerate. Or we might have to confront the emptiness of any deep meaning amidst the survival game; fretting at the thought of what remains when we stop moving. And so we keep our minds focused on rushing here and there, doing this and that, losing the ability to develop true, inner acceptance and peace.

Unfortunately, the hectic pace results in the mind feeding on whatever sensual impressions happen upon us in the world—we chew on whatever people say to us, how they look at us, if they avoid us or get in our way, rumors about coworkers, fleeting news events and whatever scary thought about the future arises. We’re like truck drivers eating any junk food available along the road; only our junk food is the sights and sounds and thoughts that pop up while we’re racing for survival. Eventually the mind becomes tired and easily exhausted, as its been dining on the wrong food.

What are good sources of nourishment? The Buddha listed ten healthy subjects for awareness: Bringing to mind situations during which we were generous, times we’ve displayed the virtue to avoid causing harm to ourselves or others, the examples of benevolent people we’ve known, the example of the Buddha’s diligent search for peace within, the teachings of the dharma, the support of one’s spiritual community, times we’ve known serenity, the sensations of the breath and the body and, for an ultimate sense of perspective, the looming possibility of death itself. This last reflection may seem gloomy and hardly the anecdote for anxiety, but it actually gives us a way to push aside so many of the small details and fleeting concerns we may try to digest along our journeys.

So the answer is to learn how to stop and prepare some good food for the mind ourselves, rather than relying on what the world has to offer. In other words, we develop our own sustenance. With a healthy diet, the mind can exercise—learning to meditate and establish ease and tranquility—which is certainly attainable, so long as we’re not trying to digest all the junk and empty stuff that we experience in our rivalries and competitions.

Bon appetite!


Popular posts from this blog

Is There Life on Earth?

Our ancestors knew that physical proximity, being seen in the eye of others via direct, face-to-face contact was, and is, the core foundation of mental and physical health. Without the emotional co-regulation that community provides, our sympathetic nervous systems never switch off, we’re forever on guard. 
Remember: The human species survived and thrived because we lived in tribes where individuals labored not just for themselves, but the benefit of others; we didn't survive by outrunning predators, for we are without wings, shells or claws; we survive because we are pack animals, wired to connect, our primary means to survive threats and heal our wounds; without connection chronic stress is the inevitable result.
     Loneliness is not a spiritual state to seek, it’s a health risk: the bonds of community, emotional mirroring, acceptance heal our wounds, help us grow, produce states of ease and confidence. People in communities live significantly longer, healthier lives.

5 ways to resist obsessive thoughts (Vitakkasanthana)

The mind can be thought of as a committee
Our thoughts are present by many "voices," some skillful and unskillful
W there are some skillful voices in there, focusing on useful ideas, there are also the many voices in the "committee" that cause us suffering by advancing and encouraging useless, stress inducing ideas, plans, worries.

Some examples of unskillful, stress producing obsessions
—are dedictated to figuring out the worst possible outcomes (fear) of any situation
—fixate on unknowable future events, i.e. what will we experience later in life?
—try to figure out what other people are thinking about us
—compare ourselves with others, especially in material concerns
in general, the buddha broke these down the thoughts of craving, aversion and delusion.

How unskillful internal voices persuade us
some of these committee members try to get their way by
—most work by repeating the same thought over and over
—some split into thousands of variations that seem different, but are …

Buddhism and the Bilateral Brain: A Brief Sketch of Ideas Ranging from the Ancient Greeks, Early Buddhism, Nietzsche and a Smattering of Neuroscience

In Greek mythology, Apollo was the god of the reason and logic, appealing to the ideals of precision and abstract purity. Dionysus was the god of the spontaneous, the emotional, embodied, often irrational instinct. These gods were not considered to be antagonistic but rather complimentary.
Today, from the vantage of contemporary neuropsychology, especially in the works of Iain McGilchrist, Allan Schore and Robert Ornstein, we can readily note how these twin gods neatly represented the asymmetrical brain: • Apollo depicts the perspective of the left hemisphere, which represents the world in static ideas; reality is comprised of separate and fragmented objects, abstracted from their context; reality is separated into parts. The kind of attention is inherently dualistic and isolating—self versus other, me versus you, humankind versus nature; this attention tends to represent the fluid and organic as lifeless, static, in language or symbols. • Dionysus depicts the worldview of the r…