I recently began taking a Meditation Based Stress Reduction Class through the University of Minnesota (MBSR). The premise being that we have an innate ability to heal ourselves. We must be willing to allow that healing to occur by calming the incessant chatter of the mind and let the wisdom of our internal forces lead the way. Now that can sound pretty scary, and it certainly requires some faith and trust that we hold intelligence in areas other than our minds. Not only that, but that our minds may not always be reliable confidants.
I am not easily swayed by statistics, but these numbers certainly made me question my minds accuracy. This research comes from The Center for Mindfulness through the University of Massachusetts.
It turns out that 9/10ths of an average person’s thoughts are either in the past or the future. Of those thoughts, 40% of the thoughts about the future never happen, 30% are based in the past, 12% are about unfound health issues and 10% are petty thoughts insignificant to our overall life. The final count leaves us with…drumroll please;
92% of our thoughts either never happening, already happened, or are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
The phrase “Don’t believe everything you think” seems to sum it up. I believe our minds have good intentions. They are doing what they know best to protect us from our fears becoming reality. They are planning, judging, scanning for danger all to protect us. It is just that they have gone a bit overboard.
This incessant rat race to cover up our inherit powerlessness is arguably how we spend most of our days and our lives. This leaves the entirety of the energy we have in our lives directed towards running from our fears about what we believe is real.
If we are going to put all of our energy into trying to control something, it certainly makes sense to look a bit deeper and ponder it’s truth.
So I ask you as an exercise to contemplate these questions for a moment with me. Think of the moments of the greatest joy and happiness in your life. Think of the people in your life you love the most. How much control did you have over those events? How much control did you have over meeting those people?
Now think of moments of sadness or pain. Think of the people in your life that cause you the most stress or struggles. How much control did you have over those events? How much control did you have over meeting those people?
I don’t how you came out, but when I think of my greatest joys and sadness, the conditions and situations were completely out of my control. I was just present to the experience. The people I love in my life, I met along my journey through a random combination of my own decisions and unsystematic events. Serendipity if you will. And the only control I had over the events or relationships was how I showed up for those moments our paths crossed. Was I full of fear, or was I full of love?
I would hate to end a blog deeming us powerless as I don’t believe that is true. But perhaps the control we possess has less to do with how much we plan and scheme and more about the level of open-heartedness we bring to each moment.
I defer to Buddha’s words to close; “In the end, only three things matter, how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”