I started a new book this morning and finished the first half.
The book is Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior. It follows the narrator’s experience of meeting with a wise man who shares certain secrets of life. One such revelation is that the mind is not a helpful tool but a negative byproduct of the brain’s activity. Often, the mind has impulsive reactions, which prevents the person from actually using their brain to its full potential. The mind relates to similar circumstances in the past and triggers seemingly appropriate emotions.
In reality, external events have nothing to do with a person’s current emotional state. The example used in the story is a festival or party. In the past, you can certainly recall being at multiple festivals. In all likelihood, there was at least one festival where you were happy, that you recall as a pleasant experience, as well as some festival or celebration where you had a negative experience. Both were festivals, and the seeming result would be that everyone at the party would be happy, as the party is a great place to be. However, this is not always the case. Emotions are more than simply a result of the environment.
An example that I have used before is laughter. In any situation, you can laugh, and you will feel better. If you attempt to genuinely emulate real laughter, you will probably experience that laughter and it will become true mirth, regardless of what else is occurring. Emotions are separate from the world. Admittedly, this is more difficult in many circumstances. I do not think it reasonable that someone would laugh constantly, no matter what the circumstance. Indeed, such a person would have very few friends, but it is possible.
Recently, I got into a rather lengthy and passionate conversation about the toils of financial stability required to accomplish much of anything in our current society. This was intellectually stimulating at first, but it soon transformed into more of a grim irritation. It reminded me of the fact that I had a heap of imaginary negative cash, taunting me continuously. Before I could do much of anything, it seemed, I had to obtain enough money just to contribute to even a small amount of the debt. The talk brought me down, into a state of sulking and angst that stormed about me for the remainder of the day.
At the most basic level, I can recognize that this is not healthy, nor is it even necessary. Nothing happened that caused me to feel a certain way. I reacted by choosing to feel a certain emotion, perhaps because I thought it would make my debt disappear, perhaps because I hadn’t tried the emotion of “brooding” out for some time and wanted to experience it. Either way, nothing has been solved because of that emotion. Self-pity did not cause me to gain extra money or even to gain insight on how to better the situation. Indeed, it made the situation worse by focusing more attention on it, and by spending the time doing little besides pouting.
If there is a remedy to this, I think it must be action. Millman used gymnastics. When he is focusing on physically executing a specific move, his mind is quieted at last. In talking to my friend, we both agreed that it is very difficult to quiet the constant thoughts and perceptions in most social situations, they were relatively non-existent when the focus shifted to something physical. Camping, for instance, or a sport, involves action. There is little time to sulk or analyze when your focus is on the activity at hand.
When I began my habit of waking up early, I developed a habit of thinking of the process, inventing strategies, and contemplating what might assist in the process. I found that although these ideas could be helpful overall, the main thing – the one that mattered more than all else – was to actually simply do it. And I did. When I do it, there is no mind. I have no real emotion toward waking up that early, unless you count a profound grogginess. It really just lies in the action.
Writing is like this. It is so easy, while writing, to be constantly proofreading myself, double checking every word and comma that I type. These details barely matter in the scheme of things. They are more likely to stop the process of writing than encourage it. And anything that contributes more toward ending than completing an activity is not very helpful at all.
For myself anyway, I have had enough thoughts for now. I am ready for action.