How Does Your Mind Hold You Back?
By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Imagine that you?re walking in a park and you here some birds chirping. The sun is shining on your face and then you notice you?re feeling pretty lousy. Then you think, ?What?s wrong with me, it?s a beautiful day, I should be feeling great.?

Sit with that for a minute, ?I should be feeling great.?

Our minds do this all the time, they focus on where we should be rather than where we are and in turn are focusing on a gap, a deficiency. When we?re focusing on an idea that we are not where we want to be, it often makes us feel worse.

Indian Poet Kabir writes, ?Oh mind you carry on your back, Your actions like a heavy sack.?

Your mind can?t help it. It?s trying to help, trying to get you out of what it perceives to be a problem. So it thinks about the deficiency, which leads to the thought that you are not where you want to be, maybe a judgment that you are ?weak? or ?lousy?, and potentially a fear about where you will end up.

Kabir continues, ?No wonder that your shoulders ache, Another strain?s enough to break Your neck, So drop this stupid load.?

Thanks Kabir, but easier said than done. One of the central attitudes that is important to cultivate and develop over time when it comes to our minds is patience. Oh, none of us want to hear that, patience may be the last thing we have. However, in reality, often times change doesn?t happen as quickly as a click of the mouse on your computer. It happens through first cultivating an awareness and curiosity about what unconscious strategies we?re using that are ineffective and then beginning to do something different. In this case, we can become aware of the stories our minds begin to spin.

And the response to this might be, ?yeah right, I can?t do that.? Let?s look at this statement for a second with a different lens. Where is this coming from? Might this statement be trying to keep you safe from venturing out and doing something different? Imagine this voice as a young child inside of you full of fear. What would you tell that young child? Maybe, ?I know you?re afraid, I?m afraid too, but let?s trying something different this time.? This little afraid child inside will come back again and again with his/her objections. When this happens, just notice and acknowledge this voice, even have a dialogue with it like above. Let it be and gently begin to refocus, with a sense of curiosity and patience. In other words, frustration and fear are expected to arise in the face of changing old patterns. You might even notice that ?this is it!? This voice inside and how you are feeling is the reality of the present moment. As soon as you notice this you have arrived. Good work. It might be unpleasant, painful, or uncomfortable, but only by arriving and acknowledging the present moment can you choose to do something different.

At this point we can finish what Kabir says:

?This is the last stop on the road where you can find rest, Stay, be Love?s guest.?

The late Richard Carlson, author of Don?t Sweat the Small Stuff, And It?s All Small Stuff once said, ?Be grateful during the good times and graceful during the difficult times.? May we all hold this as an aspiration.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Dr. Elisha Goldstein is the co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (March 2010). For his latest e-book, A Mindful Dialogue, all of the proceeds go to Haiti relief efforts.