The fourth meeting was the sales pitch we had been working towards for the past few months. It took place at a company in Amsterdam, but had been in jeopardy up until a week before. In light of earlier events, we were not sure whether it should go ahead. I needed to be ready and it looked very much as if I wasn’t. Thankfully, our reflection session opened the door again, and on the day itself, having delivered a good pitch in rehearsal, I made sure I practised it another three or four times to myself. I was ready.
The meeting certainly didn’t go according to plan and I had to improvise, but it was a great success. It couldn’t really have gone any better, and it brought to a close an eventful period of 22 days, most of which were spent in a self-inflicted emotional drama based solely upon what my mind was telling me. During that brief period I experienced despair, followed by relief, and finally success. But it didn’t end there. The insights and learning detailed in the previous posts have been fortified by a book given to me when I was in the middle of the chaos. I’m only halfway through, but its pages have already helped me to realise something I have been working towards for years.
The book, The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, is another work on Self-Enquiry. This material, however, rather than feeling as though it is tantalisingly out of reach, is simple, relatable, and clearly very powerful. Combined with the clarity and intensity of my recent experience, it has facilitated a breakthrough with the most detrimental element of my whole life: my mind.
I have written often enough about how difficult it is to deal with the mind. Here are just a handful of lines from seven of the 75 posts in the Mind category:
My mind can be very powerful and the more I become aware of this the easier it will be for me to disregard its input when I need to. (‘Mental Tiredness’)
My mind steps in and all sorts of thoughts and feelings develop as a consequence and before I know it I don’t know what to think. (‘Stay With The Feelings’)
I exercised this morning. It was hard work at first because my mind kept telling me I was wasting my time. It made me aware, as it does every morning, of the aches and pains in my body, the coldness of my room and the darkness outside. I was reminded of Karaj’s warning that my mind is going to start getting very clever. I realised that if I could overcome the seemingly persuasive arguments it was feeding me then I could begin to make real progress. I persisted with my exercises and felt much better for doing so. (‘Slowly’)
In the space of one hour, during my walk this morning, I had allowed my mind to convince me that I am run down, weak, and annoyed with the world. (‘Push Through The Barriers’)
One important insight which I had whilst I was still half asleep was that I caught my mind going through its search program looking for negatives from last night. I was astounded to discover this because it means that even before I am fully conscious, I am looking for ways to bash myself up – unbelievable. (‘The Mind’s Algorithm’)
We create a (negative) fantasy in our minds that something will go wrong, or be awkward, or difficult, but what actually happens is something very different. Or nothing at all. (‘Relax & Lighten Up’)
And that is a choice we always have. Believe the constructs of our mind and immediately create a whole scenario around it with conflicts, confrontations and emotional conclusions. Or calmly gather the facts, look at the evidence, consider the possibilities and choose to believe in the good in the world. (‘How Easily The Mind Goes To Work’)
Now, with Michael Singer’s clear advice to let go of every single attempt of the mind to distract and lead astray, it feels almost effortless. I have known this stuff for years, and looking back over past writing it is so obvious what I needed to do; what I was trying to do. But it was always so difficult somehow. Overwhelming. Implausible. This year, however, with the silent retreat and the experience of the past few weeks, maybe something has shifted. Maybe nothing will ever be the same again. 901 days ago I wrote this:
What if, for the next 1000 days, I also begin to exercise my thoughts more deliberately. Surely the same will apply: I will notice how they fit and work together, and how they affect my being; why pain sometimes arises and what I can do to alleviate it. I will see that if I focus my attention more intently on certain areas, I can exert a significant influence on them. I will enhance my appreciation of the thought process and thus be able to create more control, more balance and more harmony. (‘One Thousand Days’)
In the time since writing that, I have sometimes wondered whether I would have anything to report when I write the post, ‘Two Thousand Days’, in March 2019. But now I know I have. There are 99 days until then, which is plenty of time to practise letting go of thoughts as they come. I look forward to seeing what I have to write when that time comes.