Dear mind, dear friend.

Dear Mind,

Here you go again 🙂

I’ve cottoned on to you long ago but you still get me every once in a while! Last night I had another attack of “What am I doing with my life?”, coupled with another classic, “tomorrow I’m going to feel lonely working on my own”. A real late night anxiety-depression mix, and the funny thing is that now it’s tomorrow and I’m working on my own in a library and doing something and I’m very happy. But still, those two thoughts got me again last night. Two old classics! Two that can floor me. In September they drove me round the bend for nearly a week!

And I know that the cure doesn’t lie in listening to them, and trying to cure them by finding people to be with all day so I don’t feel lonely, or finding a really important career or purpose, or plan – that would work for a while but sooner or later the old thoughts would appear again.

Since when have these thoughts bothered me? Since I was probably about 12 I’ve been troubled on and off by this ‘what to do with my life?’ anxiety. (Meanwhile doing plenty with my life! The irony of it!) Perhaps it’s because society, school careers days, parents, but in the end, me, wanted to pin a label on me that says ‘lawyer’, ‘doctor’, ‘architect’ etc. I still try to pin labels on myself now, like ‘writer’, or try out new fun ones, like ‘musician’, both of which are perfectly great, but do I need the label? It seems labels make me uncomfortable!

Whatever the reasons behind it all, when my son is about to start the school term again I always get an attack of this. And it passes. Thank God. How does it pass? Slowly and painfully if I let the thoughts go unchecked and consume me until they just run out of energy of their own accord.

Rapidly if I recognise such a thought as an old friend back again, smile to it, and see it as what it is, a ghost of a thought, come to haunt me for a bit. It’s got staying power that’s for sure, returning and returning after all these years, “what are you doing with you life?”, but I have the secret: a loving, embracing recognition. “Hello my old friend, here you are again!” I greet such thoughts (this and many other troublesome thoughts) just like that, smile to them, and remember, it’s just a thought. I only suffer in as much as I believe it, and reality always seems to play out differently, as my happy morning here in the library shows.

So last night felt like an enormous cause for celebration for mindfulness and all these years of befriending my ghosts – it works! The anxiety lasted all of 20 minutes until I realised what was going on and smiled to it. Perhaps I can even look forward to the next time these thoughts show up so I can greet them again, and again, until they hardly think it worthwhile to show up at all.

And meanwhile I can get back to what really matters. Not what am I doing with my life, but, Can I be happy in the present moment? Am I loving my family? And then get on with what interests and inspires me again, whether it’s got a label or not!

So, thank goodness, attack over, and a reason to recognise and love my playful mind, my dear friend, more than ever again.

17 thoughts on “Dear mind, dear friend.”

  1. Footnote: This post comes from notes in a notebook made last night, after feeling better. Why write about it here? I heard an interesting interview yesterday evening with Bruce Springsteen on the BBC’s Desert Island Disks where he talked about his depression and how he gets around it, and I thought it’s always interesting to share such things – another’s experiences are, after all, what led me to learn what works for me. Other’s experiences can sometimes be the ‘crack where the light gets in’ as my old friend Mr Cohen puts it. In my case the light came from Thich Nhat Hanh and, I think, his book ‘Peace is every step’, where I first read his idea of greeting difficulties as old friends, or embracing them, he says, like a mother embraces a crying baby, soothing the baby until she calms down.

    1. Serendipity:-
      I hadn’t been to your site for a little while, so I’m pleased to see you’ve started to write (and video) and share again. I love the “through the looking glass” montage by your friend, and fell in love with the song it’s set to. So I Shazamed it. Andrew Bird. Never heard of him, so I did some Wikipedia and iTunes research. I like! So I wondered, what would be the chance of this Chicago musician playing in Australia? I Googled. He’s only one of the acts coming to Byron Bay’s Bluesfest this Easter – and I only already have tickets! Now that’s serendipity. 2016 was such a deflating year, but 2017 is going to be special, I can feel it.

      1. That is serendipity for sure! Lucky you! He was playing in Madrid recently but I wasn’t able to go. He’s a very interesting musician.

  2. Hi Ben this post resonates with me so much – the negative thoughts and resulting self doubt. Thanks for the timely reminder about the power of mindfulness!

  3. Dear Ben, thanks for sharing your deep feelings. I am understanding lately that we, the human beings, use to suffer for very similar kind of things. I mean, many times I feel that my suffering is a big cloud that nobody feels like that and this thought makes me to feel alone. The fact of sharing your feelings and suffering with another people calms and relax a lot! Thanks again and keep writing! (…and sorry for my English)

  4. The mind-body connection is related to this issue. A lot of illness { especially back and neck pain} is related to repressed anger. Dr. John Sarno is a pioneer in efforts to help chronic pain to be eased through his discoveries. HEALING BACK PAIN is the best of his 4 books toward this end. Also remember when something causes you to react with extreme anger or sorrow that is a conscious decision. You can also decide to react in a calm measured way.

  5. Do you think this thing that happens with the mind has some evolutionary reason? Why is it that so many adults get these kinds of thoughts that cause anxiety? The way I overcome them is by accepting that it is simply a limitation humans have, such as the limitations of our senses, that wear out with time. Well, it’s comforting to know no one is alone in this regard. Thanks for the post.

    1. I have a friend who tells me about an Indian guru who told her, ‘the problem with you westerners is you have a full belly’. Meaning that we aren’t constantly occupied with fulfilling the very basic needs of humans and have far too much time on our hands to drive ourselves nuts with our thoughts!

      1. Yes, I believe this is true. We have not yet learned how to enjoy the comfortable lives we live. Perhaps there is guilt behind that. Interesting observation.

  6. Hi Ben and readers!!

    It’s certainly a test when our mind plays tricks! I think I can relate to you. I’ve always been in employment (that’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t it?) I’ve never hated my job but I’ve never been truly satisfied. My friends had ambitions to be…a teacher..a nurse etc and me! It’s easy to say what we don’t want to do but I’ve never known what I really want career wise.Ive decided that being hard on myself isn’t the answer anymore and it’s okay to be just well just this and give joy to what I do have in my life. Love conquers everything ????

  7. Very interesting post I too find that I want to fit myself into a neat tidy box labelled something that society accepts. Yet these thoughts lead to me being miserable and when I just be me everything works out just fine I find.

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