I was doing my normal morning workout the other day when I started to observe a dialogue in my head. I’ve been practicing Eastern Philosophy and Mindfulness for several years, and observing the mind is one of the skills I’ve learned to gain peace of mind. We all have a voice inside of our heads that seems to commentate on everything it sees. It also loves to criticize you or push you to go after things it desires. Things like more food, money, sex, alcohol, drugs, travel, entertainment.
Here’s the dialogue I observed on my run:
“Damn, it’s cold for July. Crazy.
I wish I was in Ghana. I really had a good time last time I was there. Great country.
How can I go there now? Do I have any appointments next week? I need to figure out how I can get there.
What do tickets cost? Might not be an expensive trip.
I need to think of ways to earn more.”
A simple morning workout could have turned into a journey of coming up with all kinds of ways to earn more money. Fortunately, I don’t listen to my thoughts anymore. It’s always about the same things, which is pretty funny. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you want a bigger house, new car, travel more, go to fancy restaurants, do fun things, I know. I just save myself the trouble by ignoring about 99% of my thoughts.
Your thoughts push you to live in the future
You ought to have noticed that your thoughts never say something like, “Wow, it’s such a wonderfully normal and mundane day? Let’s enjoy that cup of coffee. Don’t get worked up about stupid things like getting stuck in Lagos traffic. Just enjoy yourself!”
That never happens by itself. People who say they are always optimistic and joyful like that are lying. I just don’t buy it. One has to prime the mind to think that way. Because without priming the mind, we will resist the present. We always think about the past or the future. That’s where your mind loves to go because that’s where it can get your attention.
And yes, I’m talking about your thoughts in a way that it’s not a part of you. You’re the consciousness who’s noticing the thoughts. You’re not the thoughts. You merely notice them.
But most of us identify ourselves with our thoughts. We actually listen to the thoughts, and as a result, we’re hardly present.
Make the present your friend
In stock trading, there’s a saying, “The trend is your friend.” The idea comes from a trading strategy called Trend following and says that a trader should buy a stock when its price trend goes up, and sell when its trend goes down.
To trade against the trend, you’re trying to reverse a force that’s much greater than you. There’s no point in buying stocks on the way down unless you’re a value investor and believe in the company.
Trend followers always expect that a certain trend in prices continues. For example, if a stock is going down for two weeks, it’s likely to go down in week three as well until things definitely turn around.
When I was working out and noticed that dialogue, I used my training in Mindfulness to snap back to the present. But I also noticed that my thoughts were trying to resist the present moment. Notice this the next time you’re lost in thought. Your thoughts always try to take your attention away from the present moment. You’re basically trying to go against the trend of life itself, which is always in a present trend.
So instead of always thinking about the past and the future, be present because that’s the nature of life. If we live in the present, we make it our friend, and we will be happy. Eckhart Tolle said it best in The Power of Now:
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy.”
When you resist the trend, you become distracted, restless, and dissatisfied with the present. No good ever came from a mind that’s lost in thought. It only causes suffering. Always work with the trend. Stay in the present, and make it your friend. Every time your mind is trying to take you to the future or past, become aware of it, and say, “You’re not my friend. The present is. Goodbye,’ and snap back to what’s in front of you.