It all starts with a thought. One single thought. And before you can stop the tide, five million thoughts. There is not a moment in between. There is not a second where you can stop and ask yourself whether or not you want to continue on with this thinking thing. There's not even a consciousness that has any sort of opinion on thoughts and their valubility. We just think. And as a people, we essentially believe that there is no way of escaping it. No way of escaping the ongoing thoughts that cloud our brain and take over our lives. Day after day, night after night. The thoughts don’t even begin to dwindle. They drown us. The stress and the anxiety, the excitement and the passion, the ‘What shall I do next?’ and “How can I better my life so I have less stress and more enjoyment?” The constant desire to experience less suffering and more pleasure, whether that be intellectual pleasure, physical pleasure or emotional pleasure. We all want to be happy and get the most out of this thing called life as possible. People do whatever they can to achieve the ideal life, and most of us are stuck in the illusion that we are actually achieving it, or close to it. At least, that’s what people think. But in this world full of craziness, we haven't even taken one minute to stop and look around, take a breath and slow down a little bit.
Once in awhile you hear about those people. The ones who devote their life to meditation, or choose not to get a job, have kids, get married, or live any sort of normal lifestyle, and instead go off into the wild to “find themselves.” We associate those people with the ones who can “slow down.” But us fast-paced people, the ones that want to go to college and be successful, continue on with the family legacy or be people who our children can call admirable, we don’t slow down. There’s no time. This is because we have been raised to think that the faster you are the better a person you are. The more you can get done, the more you’ll achieve, and the happier you’ll be in the long run... But what is the long run? Is there a certain moment in your life where you wake up and say “I've got here! Finally! I’ve reached the good part.” Perhaps. But as far as I’m aware, that doesn’t happen, at least not to most people.
We spend our whole lives doing painful things with the impression that one day it will all pay off. It’s what we do in the morning, when we first wake up and our mind starts going, spinning off into a thousand different directions. It is the decision, usually unconscious but ultimately controllable, which we make to follow our thoughts. One after another we follow what we believe to be the road which will lead to great achievements. If you begin to think about it, it sounds quite funny. We base everything we do off of our thoughts, which actually have no physical proof of existing, and are nothing but neurological signals in our brain. Not only that, but we believe just about every thought that pops into our head, such as ‘The sky is beautiful today.’ If you ponder this idea, you can see that you thinking the sky is beautiful is a judgement that you came up with in your own head, and instead of just appreciating the sky, you are now formulating a concept about the sky.
We do this all day, everyday. We build concepts around everything we experience, and in the process find that we are creating our own little made-up world. We criticise things, put things into good and bad categories, and make judgments about people that we believe to be correct, like “The way John cooks pasta is wrong.”
When we make these judgments, we are only making our life more painful. We are constantly setting ourselves up for disappointment, creating false expectations for the world, and then suffering from the consequences of reality.
All it takes is some slowing down, to realize life isn’t as stressful as we make it out to be, and that if we do slow down, we have a higher chance of experiencing reality in a more grounded way. For instance, when you make yourself a cup of tea, you can either quickly throw away the tea bag and rush to your desk to start working, sit down and have to take a whole 3 minutes to analyze why you are even at the desk and what you need to get done, or you can slow down a bit. Instead, take a minute to think about whether the tea bag goes in the compost or trash, whether you can take off the paper part and put it into the recycling. At this point, you are already much more deliberate with your actions. You are staying aware of what is taking place in the current moment and attending to exactly what you are doing appropriately. Now it's been about 2 or 3 minutes. You go to sit down at your desk and you find that what needs to be done is already there and ready for you. You have just spent the last 3 minutes doing work efficiently and now you can continue on with that work.
With patience and awareness often comes relaxation, and as far as I am aware, some relaxation would do us all some good.