I’ve developed a technique to alleviate suffering and bring peace of mind. Except for a couple of especially difficult times in recent months, it’s worked really well for me, bringing a lot of joy. Before I describe it (at the end of this article), it’s important first to understand some of the obstacles we humans face in finding peace and happiness… and to look at other effective techniques (some similar to mine) that are also available.
— Mark Macy
As typical humans living on Earth, we invariably have busy minds. Cluttered thinking goes with the noble-savage turf.
A busy, cluttered mind limits our access to achievements, happiness, and inner peace, so simply being human on Earth opens us up to failure and frustration… but there are ways to rise above it.
We Live, Therefore We Think, Therefore We Obsess, Therefore We Suffer
We have a certain built-in penchant for suffering as a result (for example) of our brain structure and the various hormones that can shape it. A couple of examples:
- Chronic stress stimulates cortisol, which gradually dissolves the brain’s hippocampus… which in turn eats away at our ability to think clearly, to learn and to remember things.
- Neuroplasticity, the malleable nature of the brain, means that if we focus on the daily dramas that endlessly try to captivate our minds… news about wars and murders and tragic accidents and natural disasters… the rude and thoughtless and predatory acts of people around us… traffic violations we haven’t yet paid and difficult phone calls we haven’t yet returned… then we sculpt our brain (by building neural substrates) to better accommodate that kind of dark and troubled thinking.
In other words, harmful thinking comes easily to our carnal body-minds, and then it becomes self-perpetuating.
So, yes, it’s true: Life on Earth makes us prone to suffering.
Fortunately, there’s a way to rise above most of our suffering… and that is to learn to control our thinking.
Control the Thinking to Cancel the Suffering
There are two important aspects to controlling our thoughts:
- Developing the right attitude, and
- Removing the clutter.
One great thing about this kind of blogging: I get to google and read a lot of articles for research material, and I’m always amazed by the sheer number and rich diversity of very bright people out there! They’ve created a vast, online library of wisdom and knowledge… and for that I am truly grateful!
Speaking of which….
Developing an Attitude to Cleanse the Mind
Gratitude is an attitude… one of several attitudes (others include empathy, forgiveness, and love)… that can eliminate much of the suffering from our lives. Taking to heart the wisdom in any of those four links can start lifting us out of our own suffering. Digesting them all into our way of life can bring us profound happiness until the day we die.
Easier said than done, for many of us. When we’ve been heart-broken or shamed or cheated in a big way, or if we’re consumed by world problems… it’s not easy to climb out of our grief and resentment. The troubled feelings can take years, even decades to overcome. We may never lose them. We may find ourselves carrying them into the next life… which will create another bag of problems beyond the scope of this article. (Read more… )
Developing the right attitude is something I haven’t fully mastered yet. If those four attitudes could be measured on a scale of 1 to 10, I suspect I’d score above the norm on gratitude, empathy, and love, but maybe 2 or 3 on forgiveness.
If you saw my latest news summary, you’ve noticed that I haven’t found forgiveness for big business entities like Koch Industries, who’ve been causing so much chaos and suffering in the world. But, then, I suspect that the Koch brother and others who loathe taxes and idolize private enterprise and personal gain at the expense of the common good, have little forgiveness for people like me… those of us who would like to see strong, well-funded social programs that protect the less fortunate and ensure the well-being of the general public and society at large. Or, better yet, a basic income program coupled with a wealth tax that together could eliminate the need for most social programs and most of the basic taxes (income, capital gains, property…). (Read more… )
I suspect we each have our own, personal bugaboos that need some attitude adjustment.
Think about those four attitudes for a moment, and reflect on your own life. How do you think you’d score on each attitude at this point in your life?
What could you do to raise each score?
If we could each figure out a way to get into the high numbers on all four attitudes, we’d win half the battle of controlling our thoughts and eliminating our suffering.
But that’s just half the battle.
Eliminating Cluttered Thoughts to Clear the Mind
We’d still face the perennial human problem of a cluttered mind.
Scientifically speaking, the mind can be thought of as all of the information (most of it subconscious) that flows through the brain and nervous system.
Spiritually speaking, the mind is all of the timeless wisdom and infinite knowledge inherent in the soul… transduced down to a small ocean of information that can be accommodated by the brain and nervous system, which are embroiled in the dramas of terrestrial living.
From either vantage point—science or spirit—the mind contains a lot more information than the brain and nervous system can process… and, as a result, our nervous system is almost always cluttered with thoughts that can’t get properly processed.
So, the second key to controlling our thinking and eliminating suffering, is to learn how to remove the clutter and clear the mind. There are a number of brilliant techniques that might appeal to different people:
- Meditation is a time-proven method that can still the monkey mind. It involves getting quiet and employing one of many techniques to clear the mind, so that it can slow down and rise to a finer state of consciousness. (Review several techniques here… or find one easy technique here… )
- Sensory awareness is another technique, which can work for people who have trouble meditating. (Read more… )
- Process the cluttered thoughts… write them out and put them to rest. Or concentrate on something that will absorb your mind… a good book, a mind puzzle. Or do hatha yoga or vigorous exercise. (Read more… )
- Discern business from busyness. Staying active with the business of living is a good thing, but when it comes to busyness—life’s distractions—simply slow down, do less, and quiet the mind. (Read more… )
My Own Simple Formula for Peace and Happiness
Finally, here’s the technique that I’ve boiled down, polished up, and perfected over the years… a technique that can be used anytime, anyplace, under just about any conditions… to find peace of mind and happiness, and to alleviate suffering. The more you use it, the greater the peace, the greater the joy, and the lesser the suffering.
There are two simple steps:
- Go to the heart, and
- Forge a conscious connection to God.
Go to the Heart
When we move our awareness—our thinking process—from the head to the heart, we’ve moved to a place that is free from life’s dramas… a place where gratitude, empathy, forgiveness, love, and other noble values prevail.
The heart is the seat of the soul… and the soul is a small sub-ray of that brilliant source of living light… a piece of God. When we move the mind’s control center into the heart, we’re at a place where it becomes a more natural process to connect with God.
Granted, moving your awareness from the busy brain down to the peaceful heart might not come easily at first. After all, the mind has gotten accustomed to setting up shop in the brain, directly behind the body’s main sensory input stations (eyes, ears, nose, and mouth). The heart, by contrast, is more like an intimate park of flower gardens, rich lawns, and wooded areas. Coaxing the mind to leave the busy office for a while to set up shop in the park might be met with some resistance at first.
Tell the mind it can bring its laptop, if that helps. 🙂
Or, better yet, try a simple technique. First, get comfortable somewhere, close your eyes, and locate your awareness… there, behind the eyes.
Then, once you get the sense of your thoughts happening in your head, here’s the tricky part: move them to the heart. It’s not something you can force. It might take some gentle coaxing. Try one of these techniques:
- Think of your mind as an elevator. Move your awareness to the back of the head, into the elevator, then proceed slowly down to the heart. It’s not as though you stay in the head and just think about the heart; it feels like your awareness—your thinking process—is moving down… down to the heart.
Or, another technique…
- Think of your mind floating gently on a lake of living, nourishing water. You can live and breathe in the water… so you drop anchor down to the heart, and you pull yourself… your mind… your thinking process… slowly, steadily down through the wonderful, nourishing water… into the heart.
When I first began my heart meditations, I found both of those techniques helpful. With practice it became easier and more natural to move to my heart without them. I’d just close my eyes and steer my thinking down to the chest.
Now I don’t even have to close my eyes. I can move to the heart while sitting at the computer or driving the car or standing in the checkout line.
I’ve also posted a guided meditation with music and mind-altering tones that can help you move to the heart. Your eyes should be closed when listening. If you’re interested, here’s the link. You can access the link from your smartphone and plug in a set of stereo headphones while sitting or lying quietly… just about anywhere and anytime that it’s safe to have your eyes closed.
(It’s an excerpt from an audio CD, Bridge to Paradise, mastered by The Monroe Institute, using their Hemi-Sync® signals. I wrote the script and provided the narration.)
Make Conscious Contact with God
Once you’re in the heart, use the following mantra:
Dear God, our oneness is the cornerstone of my life.
Say it silently in your mind. The beauty of silent speech is you can speak while breathing in as well as when breathing out. That’s important here, since you’ll need to synchronize the mantra with your breathing. The mantra uses four complete breaths, and these are the words spoken silently on the out-breath: God, oneness, cornerstone, and life. The other words are spoken during the in-breath… as follows:
This simple mantra encapsulates the ultimate human truth… being one with God at the soul level as we live these lives of drama on Earth at the carnal level.
Reciting it silently, synchronized with your breathing, while you’re in the heart, can bring you that oneness-with-all, which has been the pursuit of all the great spiritual masters down through the ages.
There are two requirements before adopting this technique as a daily tool for peace and joy.
First, you have to accept that there’s a power greater than yourself… a power that has complete knowledge… a power encompassing everything, of which you are part… a power that’s willing and able to carry the bulk of your burden during times of greatest suffering. I call that power God. You can call it whatever makes you comfortable… but you shouldn’t be put off by my use of the word God. If this first requirement doesn’t work for you—if you can’t accept the fact that there’s an omnipotent power greater than yourself—then my going-to-the-heart technique won’t work for you. But, then, living peacefully, happily on Earth won’t work very well for you either.
Second, practice moving your awareness to the heart, using whatever technique works best for you, until you no longer need the technique. Once you can simply close your eyes and gently guide your mind to the heart, you’re ready.