“Hey Ollin, could you give me some tips on how to deal with my mind? My worries, my self-defeating thoughts, my negative outlook on life (etc.) are all constantly getting in the way of my creative work. Can you help?”
For more than four years on this blog, I’ve talked about how our minds can get in the way of our creativity, and I’ve also talked a lot about how our negative thinking can often get us stuck.
Personally, it took me a long time to recognize and understand that my thoughts are not who I am; and it took me even longer to recognize that I could actually shift my thoughts in a positive way–simply by choosing to change the thoughts I was thinking.
Over the years, I’ve included “mind control” tips inside many of my blog posts, but today, for the first time, I would like to dedicate an entire post just to the skill of “mind control.” (And by “mind control,” of course I mean controlling your own mind and not the mind of someone else’s. I’m certainly not gonna help you brainwash thousands of people to your twisted way of viewing the world. I mean, who do you think I am: the government in The Hunger Games? Or the government in Ender’s Game? Or the government in Divergent? Or… the government in every single young-adult-book-turned-blockbuster-movie-franchise-currently-being-played-at-your-local-cinema? No, I am not evil.)
For easy reading and digestion, I’ve structured this “mind control” guide in a easy-to-read question and answer format.
A Beginning “Mind Control” Guide for Writers
“What is ‘mind control’?”
For our purposes, I am going to define “mind control” as the ability to manage your thoughts in a healthy, productive manner.
“How do I control my mind?”
First, you meditate.
Then, after a while of meditating, you may recognize that you are, in fact, not your thoughts. You are not your mind. You are something else entirely. You’re a legend, Mr. Wayne.
(Wait no. That’s a line from Batman Begins. Let me bat track… I mean backtrack:)
I know you love your gorgeous little mind. You think you are a genius and you hate to think that suddenly you will lose your innate “geniusness”by admitting that you are, in fact, not your pretty little mind. But, in actuality, you would be far smarter if you recognized that you are not your mind, because then you could use your mind as a tool and not be a slave to it.
“Waiiiiit… Ollin, if I’m not my mind then… what the frak am I? Am I Cylon? And if I am a Cylon: am I one of the hotter Cylons, at least?”
Relax. You are not a cylon. You are still a perfectly normal human being, even though you are not your mind.
What you are is something far more intelligent than your mind: you are The Thing that is witnessing your mind’s chatter. You are The Witness to your thoughts. You are The Silent Watcher. You are consciousness. You are awareness.
“Right! I get it!” [Slight pause. Then shakes head.] “Yeah… no. I still don’t get it.”
Okay, I’m just going to be blunt here: you are not your mind, what you are is your spirit. Or your “soul.” This is “the thing” I said was watching your thoughts.
Your soul is really who you are and one of the main reasons why you keep being swept away by negative thoughts is because you haven’t really recognized that truth yet.
You still believe you are your mind, and you will cling to your mind as essential to your identity because you are too afraid of what it means to be a “spirit”.
“That’s interesting. Why would I be afraid of that?”
You’re afraid of recognizing your true spiritual essence because that means that your life and your work is actually more meaningful than you originally thought.
Because, deep down, you know that if you’re a spirit, then that means that you have a purpose, and if you have a purpose, then that means your supposed to go after that purpose, and if you’ve been ignoring that purpose up until now, then you’re going to have to come to terms with that fact and you’re going to have to start pursuing that purpose.
Having those negative thoughts are a great way to secretly sabotage your greatness because they keep you busy in a an endless parade of drama that can conveniently keep you far away from your true purpose in this life.
I know the next question you are going to ask: “Why would I be afraid of pursuing my purpose?”
You are afraid of pursuing your purpose because pursuing your purpose means more responsibility, it means you have to take a risk, it means you’ll have to work hard, and it means you’ll have to do things that make you uncomfortable.
Compared to actively pursuing your purpose, not pursuing your purpose just seems like an easier way out, don’t you think?
“Wow… I have issues.”
Yes, you do.
But don’t worry: we all have issues. And if it makes you feel any better, for most of my life, I was the most mind-centric person you could ever meet (and I was incredibly skeptical of anything that even had whiff of “spirituality” to it.)
I, like you, was very resistant to the fact that I was not my mind, and it took me many years to recognize this fact.
You, too, may take some time to accept this idea in your life. But don’t worry: have patience with yourself.
“Okay, so once I meditate and recognize that I’m my spirit, how do I start controlling my thoughts?”
It’s easy: just start thinking the thoughts you want to think.
For example: if you are worried that your boyfriend might dump you, start thinking a more positive thought like: “My boyfriend is going to take me out to dinner and show me how much he truly loves me.”
Keep repeating the positive thought until it takes hold. One of the ways you know a positive thought is taking hold is that you start feeling better: instead of feeling sad about the possibility of a break up, for instance, you start to feel happy at the possibility of your boyfriend showing you renewed affection–and this, in turn, gives you a more positive outlook on life.
“Wait a minute… are you teaching me ‘The Secret’ Oh come on, that doesn’t work, does it?”
No. I’m not teaching you The Secret.
I believe the people who created The Secret where well-intentioned, but there is a lot about what they taught in that DVD that I disagree with.
For instance, I do not believe, like The Secret teaches, that you can simply think about a brand new car and it will appear on your driveway. I also do not believe that life is all about acquiring material wealth and objects.
However, I do believe–and have experienced first hand–that when you think positive thoughts you just feel better. And when you feel better you tend to do more productive things, and you tend to have more energy, and you tend to cope with life better, and you tend to recognize and appreciate when things go well for you, and you just tend to be happier in general.
Does thinking positively always guarantee a positive outcome? No. Of course not.
I do not believe that positive thinking alone will create a positive life and, in fact, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to teach people this. Life is unpredictable. Life requires our patience, our humility, our hardwork and determination. Finally, many of life’s greatest lessons are mysterious at first, and if we insist that everything we experience in life should reflect our positive outlook, then we would miss out on some of the best lessons life has to offer. For instance: sometimes, the experiences that we deem “the worst thing that could ever happen to us” often end up being the best experiences that could’ve ever happen to us. And if we had insisted, back then, that these events had to be as perfect as we thought they should have been, then we would’ve missed out on a lot of learning that would have only benefited us.
“So what you’re saying is that I should just psyche myself out on a daily basis? You know: just pretend everything is going right, when it really isn’t?”
Well, no, I’m not saying that. (If you are wise enough, you will notice that this negative question is coming from your mind, who really doesn’t like being challenged right now–and also prefers negative states of mind because those negative states strengthen the mind’s power over you.)
No, I am not asking you to “psych yourself out,” on the contrary, I am asking you to “psych yourself in.” By that I mean: I am encouraging you to make yourself more aware of the psychological processes that often occur within you unconsciously. By offering those psychological processes your sharp, focused awareness, what you are doing is neutralizing–or weakening–your negative thought processes, causing them to “lose their power” over your current feeling state.
When your negative thoughts lose their power over you, your spirit regains its power over the mind and it can very easily go right in and profoundly shift your mind state–which, in turn, shifts your emotional state–which, in turn, profoundly shifts the way you view the world.
When you start feeling yourself being swept away by negative thoughts, just begin this process:
1. Sit in quiet meditation.
2. Become aware of your negative thinking.
3. Then, from your spirit-center, actively choose positive thoughts.
4. Finally, notice how your thought patterns and feeling states begin to change.
Do this exercise often and your ability to shift your mind state will improve greatly each time you do it.
Today’s Courage Exercise
Control your mind. (Stop letting it control you.)
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