There is real suffering in the world, but sometimes you can lessen personal suffering by managing your mind. If you’ve ever studied any kind of mindfulness, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here are 4 ways to course correct your thinking.
1:20 – Two examples of how subtle mind shifts cause huge positive effects
5:05 – Why we snap back to the suffering mindset so easily
11:05 – How a neutral response to external reality opens up wisdom
17:55 – Letting go of our roles and attributes leads to freedom
Rate This Podcast
Subscribe to the MindStory Speaker Podcast
Connect with Carla Rieger:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/carlarieger
Twitter – https://twitter.com/carlarieger
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlarieger/
This is episode 91 – Mindfulness – 4 Ways to Break Free of Suffering. There seems to be lots of reasons to suffer these days, but in many cases the majority of that suffering just comes from your own mind. If you’ve ever studied any kind of mindfulness, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here are 4 ways to course correct your thinking. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast.
When you’re a leader, speaker, consultant, coach, influencer of any kind…how you’re being is 80% of the message. You can say confident and uplifting words, but if people sense you’re suffering, lacking confidence or feel uneasy, they will pick up on it instinctively. And sometimes that’s okay. But if you being incongruent…saying one thing and being another it can cause issues. Small mindfulness practices or even just pondering on these philosophies of living can have a profound effect on your capacities in life.
Two examples. After doing a 3 day mindfulness training program, I went to a yoga class. It was hot yoga with 26 of the same postures I’d been doing for years. Some I could do no problem, three of them I could not do properly even after years of practice. After the training, I could do those 3 postures perfectly. Nothing in my body had changed in 3 days, but I knew how to take away the thoughts that stopped me from doing those postures to their full extent. Interesting, hey? Mind over matter.
I was coaching a CEO who had to speak at a large meeting. She had a tendency to stutter when she had to speak to groups of more than five people, so often tried to get out of those situations. There was no way out of this one. She used the 4 reframes I’m talking about today to speak confidently and smoothly. I hope these are helpful for whatever situation you find puts you into a bit of a suffering mindset.
You might have heard of typical mindsets that people get attached to, or also known as a form of mental/emotional clinging. So, one of the wise ways that mindfulness works, is that it creates very supportive conditions for non clinging. So often the mind contracts, or fixates or obsesses on things or gets too attached. So, the opposite type of mind you might call one that is free, open, neutral, detached. Now, there’s no failure either way. Because if the mind happens to be contracted, or fixated or over-identified, or bugged by something or opinionated about, or, you know, like really holding on tightly to its preferences, or engulfed in cravings or urges, it’s okay. You can get obsessive about trying to not be obsessive. So, the paradox of the detached, neutral state of mind is that you can neutrally watch yourself get very fixated on something. The key is to at least have a part of yourself in that state of the neutral compassionate, non judgmental witness…oh there I go looping about how stressed I’m getting. Isn’t that interesting.
But the more acquainted your get with these 4 common mind loops, the more you create new options, new neural pathways for how to respond. This practice of being awake, noticing, can maybe help you see more clearly, more deeply, can create an embodied intelligence that grows until it becomes your dominant take on life, which tends to give you more options, more peace of mind, more fulfillment.
So it helps to treat the process in a playful way, like a game, rather than a life or death struggle as that will re-entrench you in the suffering mindset. Many of us stay contracted a lot, because that’s our habitual way. It’s what most everyone else is doing. Right? We’ve been trained or entrained because we are all connecting in some ways to the human collective mindset. Yet if even one person trains their mind to unhook from the suffering, it can create a ripple effect. It’s like the theory of the positive deviant or the hundredth monkey example. It’s that phenomenon in which a new behaviour or idea spreads rapidly by osmosis from one individual who just decided to think or act differently. Because we are all subconsciously connected, once a critical number of members of that group adopt the new thought or action, it can spread rapidly through the whole group. Like when one monkey on an archipelago of islands decided to wash the dirt off her potato before eating it, then her mother did it, then her cousin, then her whole family. But the strange thing was that suddenly all the monkeys on all the islands were doing it, even though they had no face to face contact with the monkeys on the other islands.
So, here are four common ways to practice non clinging have been very helpful for me and those I coach. These are 4 ways the mind gets bogged by or fixated around or over-identified with things, in other words 4 ways the mind acts in unwise ways. So check these out and see if any of these are true for you. Could that help you in the coming week or days, to see how your mind tends to have an unwise rapport with certain people or situations.
So, the first that we tend to get hooked by is chasing after pleasure or avoiding displeasure. So when something as an aspect of pleasure in it, or displeasure, often very quickly, it will come with the mind zeroing in on an end goal. It starts chewing on or wanting to protect from displeasure, and get more of pleasure. It’s raining and cold, wishing the sun would come out. It’s sunny, wishing the clouds don’t come back. Of course with the promise of something being pleasant the mind instead of being able to allow this to be there for as long as it’s there, allow itself to be present, it will shrink. The mind will become infatuated and obsessive about not losing something pleasurable, which becomes stressful, and the pleasure is lost. I always remember a friend telling me when she went to a spa to get a 1 hour massage, she’d get anxious about 45 minutes in because it’s going to end soon. I remember standing on the 10 meter diving board as a kid obsessing about the possible displeasure of not doing the dive correctly, instead of just getting present and going for it. In some cases simply the anticipation of that pleasure or displeasure, which never comes…consuming a lot of our waking lives. Many of us do these things with many aspects of life, big and small, versus just noticing the pleasure and displeasure, it comes and goes, it comes and goes, like the ocean waves.
Because usually we anticipate something pleasurable because it was pleasurable from the past. I remember watching my friend at a party and seeing him zero in on a chocolate pie which I knew was made by my Vegan friend – full of carob, soy, buckwheat and stevia. He anticipated it tasting like his mother’s pie as a kid, but was rudely awakened to much displeasure of the chalky substance and grasped immediately for a napkin to surreptiously spit it out.
And so maybe something pleasurable, beautiful, fulfilling that happened in the past, and you can see the clinging mind being devoted, like oh yeah, back in the day it was so amazing…but now. It was an event it came to be and then it went away. But the clinging mind is not aware of this. It just made the thing a thing and is desperately looking to get it back. It’s kind of fixated or identified itself with that thing in the past. Like, I was in a Zoom meeting the other day where some people were finding the continued lockdown displeasurable. It was better when we weren’t in lockdown. Yet other people found it pleasurable, I don’t want the world to go back to normal, its safer now, quieter now, better for the world, and some were just neutral about it. It just is. The first two tend to bring suffering, and the third way brings the most peace if you can get there.
So the mind could relax more, if you recognized that this is not in my control, I can certainly take care of myself and others in all the ways that I know. But the mind can usually relax better when you allow for reality to be the way it is, and not fixate on it being different, or on people being different. Not to say you put up with whatever comes your way, but starting from a place of neutrality opens you up to whole brain thinking rather than survival brain, then and only then can you make wiser decisions moving forward.
I’ll move on to the second aspect of reality that we tend to cling to. So, the first is around anticipating a possible experience of you know, comfort, pleasure or displeasure or discomfort, or unpleasantness. Past, present or future possibilities broiling in the mind. The second aspect is around opinions. So, the mind can easily run an opinion and become very contracted, you know, defend an opinion, be aggressive around the opinion, be charged up by other people’s opinions, like the need to confront somebody who has a differing opinion. We see lots of the on the media and social media these days.
Now, it’s not that we shouldn’t have opinions. If you look at those who teach mindfulness like the Buddha, his writings show he had a lot of opinions about how reality works, how to be in relationship with reality, and he actually spent his life expressing opinions about reality. But you can have opinions and be non-clinging around those opinions. So the Buddha didn’t seem to get aggravated by his own opinion.
Of course, I’m not that good. My opinions can actually have me lack sleep, you know, I sometimes can’t fall asleep, because opinions are churning inside, and I’m chewing on them, and I’m stuck with my own opinions, they own me. Mindfulness teachings actually suggest that opinions should lead to calm and clarity and peace. That was a shock when I read this, oh, my Gosh, have I some work to do. So, that’s really interesting here, how could I have an opinion, and have calm and clarity and peace at the same time? How can I honor or respect my opinion, even maybe promote it, maybe even fight for opinion to be considered, without it leading to burnout or depletion in some way?
So in conversation, sometimes, to watch.. am I so charged people won’t want to consider my opinion, they’ll just see somebody that’s really worked up. But if I held my opinion with more neutrality, less attachment, less neediness..would it be received differently? I’m sure you’ve heard two people share the same opinion on say, a controversial subject. One is frothing at the mouth and cursing and fixated on being right, the other is calm, confident, at peace about the opinion. Which one are you more likely to be open minded towards. It’s like there’s an energetic price to pay for listening to someone with a fixated opinion, but more freedom and openness and room to move with someone who isn’t fixated. Not to say they aren’t committed to their point of view, but there’s an expansiveness about it, that lets it grow if appropriate. A fixated mind can throttle an idea worth sharing.
And in the mindfulness teachings, it talks particularly about the pain, you know, the multiplied pain, of holding on to a wrong view. You know, so, classic, wrong view, in the teachings is the view that things are solid and permanent, or should be or. It’s the incapacity to recognize the dynamic nature of experiences. So this thing comes to be and then it’ll disintegrate. I remember hearing the story about sandcastle where the children spent all day creating an amazing, intricately and creatively built sand castle with seaweed moat, the seashells for windows, the pebble staircase. But before they could show it to anyone, a big wave came along and turned it into indistinguishable small mounds of sand. They just laughed and started building another sand castle. I tried that as an adult a few years ago in Hawaii. I built an amazing sand castle at low tide and watched a big wave ruin it all. Practicing detachment. Physically experiencing the ephemeral nature of all things. This is actually quite a profound practice.
Because the view that things, people, circumstances are solid and separate, and absolute, and essential to your well being, creates a lot of stress. Noticing the only permanence is that everything changes, sometimes slowly, sometimes fast, but it all dissolves away…solidity is an illusion…to make peace with that is so freeing. Our identities are changing, our status is changing, our health, our finances, the socio-political landscape, relationships – somebody is a friend, then an enemy, then a friend, then you lose touch, its all fluctuating. And will continue to do so until the day you die. What you worry about today won’t matter at all maybe a year from now, ten years from now, on your deathbed.
So there’s a clinging to experiences because of their pleasurable nature or displeasurable nature, and the mind that tends to cling to views and opinions. Then the third is the mind that tends to cling to rites and rituals and ways to do things and norms. You know, how the mind will get really fixated on how things are done, especially if you’re living with people these days, you know, roommates or housemates, partners or family members. Sometimes I find my mind clinging to …that’s not how we do this, you know…like how things should go in the dishwasher. It’s kind of like clinging to an opinion but it is more specifically about “just the way we’ve always done it”. If a new boss comes into the office, or there’s a merger, or you get a new assistant, or a new housemate, or a new car…things don’t happen like they used to…the mind can get into a tizzy about that. Even if you like the new boss, new workmates, new assistant, new housemate or car…it’s different, it shouldn’t be different.
The fourth one is much more subtle and insidious and is what mindfulness teachings call identification, or appropriation. So it’s about making something that not an absolute into an absolute, like my memory, intelligence, sense of humor. Whenever you find yourself thinking…this is mine. Like sometimes when people get older they find more wrinkles. The mind gets fixated that this smooth skin was mine in an absolute way. It was perhaps contingent on a certain situation like youthfulness. It can also happen with a function we have this function in society, you know, being a full time mother, a husband, a daughter, a CEO, a financial whiz, whatever it is, and whoops things change, and I’m not anymore. My child has left the home, I’m divorced, my parents have passed away, my company dissolved. Who am I if I’m not these things? If the mind clings to these roles as absolutes, there is suffering. Even if you wanted out of the marriage or wanted to retire from a job, there is sometimes an uneasiness when that absolute, that defining role is now undefined. There’s no specific structure into which you can direct your creative life force energy. That said, it’s normal to feel a reaction to loss, I’m not talking about that. But at some point if you want to reinvent it helps to go back to the neutral, detached, non clinging mind, to go back to zero point, to let it all go, to breath it all out, be in the stillness…and see what’s there now.
That’s it for today. Do post a review of this podcast if you liked it. It really helps other listeners find the podcast. Here’s a quick and easy way to do it. Just go to: https://ratethispodcast.com/speaker. You’ll also see that link in the shownotes.
And hit subscribe if you want to hear about other episodes coming up, which you can do on our website MindStoryAcademy.com\podcast. https://mindstoryacademy.com/Podcast That link is also in the shownotes. Until next time, I’m Carla Rieger. Thank you for listening.