About four years ago, I read a book that told me that I was insane.
Imagine my surprise at 21 years of age — a junior in my spring semester of college — being told by the pages of a book recommended to me by a friend that I was literally some form of mentally insane!
But the shocking part was, I didn’t really resist.
The revelation came with uneasy relief, like some part of my mind resisted the idea that I wasn’t impervious and perfect, even as another part of me felt nearly overjoyed as it exhaled away all of the tension from my neck and upper back.
As the promise and rebirth of the spring months transitioned into a burning summer, the words of Eckhart Tolle in his global best-seller, The Power of Now, swirled within me some glimmer of hope and chance and possibly even the rebirth of my love; my soul.
For me, it was one of those — yup, you guessed it! — moments of youthful heartbreak that we’ve each endured, and probably at least handful of times over, I’m sure! List off those repercussions of those heartbreaks, because I’m easily sure that you and I have shared them: abandonment, shock, loss, hopelessness, depression, and so on.
Ain’t it funny how the world seems to crumble down around you at such times, and then years later you think, “Was that time really so crushing, or did God know that a false part of me needed to be crushed, so that I could finally see the Truth that I had lost sight of?”
That same ‘Truth’ is what Tolle’s words gently helped me to realize, and with genuine relief: My insanity.
This is Your Brain on Drugs
Do you remember those Public Service Announcement commercials that went,
“This is your brain… and this is your brain on drugs” ?
The Power of Now dawned in me a similar reality, one of, “This is You… and this is You according to Ego.” Or, more accurately, “This is the real You (the Truth of your Being)… and this is the False You (your sense of Self according to Ego).”
Tolle’s powerful spiritual teachings awoke me to an insanity that I could neither see nor feel because I was purely numb with addiction to a nonstop thinking process, an incessant voice in my head — a narrator of loud thought that I couldn’t turn off — that harshly judged others to bolster my sense of identity and shallowly inflate my own self image.
The voice inside critiqued the appearances, words and behaviors of others without regard, and feared every fear imaginable, often manifesting in rampant insecurities that crippled me with an anxious fear of an imagined future that hadn’t unfolded.
Call these symptoms anything other than Ego, and you might as well be describing some form of literal insanity.
But, as always, the title “insanity” is not meant to be self-deprecating — I just want to make a rhetorical point here and articulate that this voice in your head, the mind, often feels somewhat insane.
The human mind is indeed a beautiful and wonderful tool. And having a “sense of self” is what really differentiates us as human beings from animals. The goal is not to erase our sense of Self. Balance is the key! What a brilliant awakening to feel your true sense of Self and silence your incessant inner thinker.
Here’s our goal: strive to minimize your egoic behaviors, continually humble yourself in positive ways, practice quieting your mind and feel at peace, and truly nurture an open and quiet sense of Being.
Step One: Examine the Thinker
How do we escape our “insanity” and realize our true sense of Being?
Here’s an awesome practice that Tolle describes in his book. It’s called, “examine the thinker” and is a mental-visual practice wherein you take an out-of-body perspective on your thoughts and observe how your mind is thinking, judging, and critiquing.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Envision yourself as having a higher consciousness, one that resides outside of the confines of your own head. Imagine your true Self not as a body, but a concentrated energy. Imagine your true Self as existing above and beyond your head and mind, where your thought processes occur.
- Literally imagine the workings of your mind and thoughts as, although occurring within your body, a separate entity that can be observed, just like how you listen to and feel your heartbeat. Feel your heartbeat. Feel the tool, the organ, within your chest at work. Watch it. Listen to it.
- Take the same perspective with your thoughts, imagining your mind as a powerful tool but a tool no different than your skin, your lungs, your heart. Observe your thoughts as you look at your fingers move… for your thoughts are not “You”, they belong to you and they are there for your use like any other tool.
- Breathe. Focus. Imagine your true Being escaping the confines of your head. Look down upon your body and observe the thoughts, the incessant narrator within, that is rambling on and on and on… What is it thinking?
Examining the thinker is a fascinating practice that helps you imagine your mind as a part of you, but not “who you are.”
What is “the thinker” thinking, and why?
Step Two: Hold a Conversation Between You and Yourself
Here’s another simple practice to help you understand the difference between You and Your Self: the “insane” dichotomy that most people live throughout their lives without ever realizing it.
Have a short conversation where you list, side-by-side, differences in your “wants” and “needs” according to (a) the natural and glorious Truth of your Being — your pure, realized essence — and (b) your sense of Self, the contrived imagine of “Who I Am”.
Here is my own conversation. The plain text is my ego talking, and the italicized text next to it is my truer self:
Ego / Truth
I wish I could give you all the answers. / But I understand that the only answer is that there isn’t one.
I wish I knew all of life’s the secrets. / Deep down, I’m thankful that such could never be the case.
I want them to like me. / But eventually, I know, that my success depends on their leaving me behind.
I daydream of the curtain dropping to reveal 50,000 cheers, bursts of fireworks and guitars blaring. / But instead I strum letters into refrains by the cluster, nodding my head to the tune of tapping keystrokes.
The more you let go, the more you understand. / Because the more I think I “know”, the less confident I am in any of it.
I know. / I understand.
Speak. / Listen.
Get loud. / Become quiet.
Lead them, because you’re the one. / Lead them, because you are all One.
So, what does the conversation between You and Your Self sound like?
Flickr photo credit: On Being