With a keen focus on directing my energy towards the things I can control, I have more love, peace and gratitude in my life these days. And by letting go of things I can’t control, I remove barriers that prevent me from being my happiest and creating winning connections with others. It’s sobering to know that I am solely responsible for how I experience life. Others can contribute, but at the end of the day, it’s up to me. And it all comes down to how much effort and consistency I apply to training my mind to interpret life.
All we have is the present moment. When I was younger, people older and wiser than me would say this. While I heard them, I wasn’t listening very well. I was busy being caught up with achieving and succeeding in life. This meant using the past as motivation to rise above where I started out and the future as a lighthouse guiding me towards what I wanted to accomplish and obtain. It’s no wonder I missed out on all the peace and joy along the way. I didn’t fully appreciate the people around me who provided wonderful examples of how to live in the moment and how the present moment is all that matters. It’s all that is. Everything else is a trap or an illusion. Once I learned this, I began working on how to honor the present and experience it fully. This meant making lots of changes in my mindset.
The first step I needed to take was to stop judging others, myself and life. I had to train myself to stop looking for what was missing in people and wrong with life. I began working on seeing the good in everyone when mistakes are made, rather than passing blame. I acquired new lenses by which to view life’s problems. With lots of practice, I started seeing possibilities and opportunities in situations that I once would’ve reacted in anger and frustration towards.
The second step involved gaining leverage on my ego; especially when it comes to other people. I make it a practice to extend grace and forgiveness even though it was once much easier to judge and shame others and myself. I gave up the victim identity my ego wanted me to take on, by telling me people wronged, abandoned or betrayed me. Which led to an important question. If I am no longer a victim, then who am I? The answer is free. I get to be free when I let go of all the things my mind chooses to believe and focus on, that only result in anxiety, worry, stress, guilt, blame and shame.
Training the mind to be present in the moment is the only way to be free. Free to be happy, free to love and free to just be. It’s not easy because we are conditioned to operate from a place of fear; even when there are no real threats to our physical being. In the absence of real danger, an untrained mind will create something to be afraid of or react to. A trained mind responds to “perceived” threats by making a choice that results in experiencing peace and gratitude in the present moment. For example, traffic is something you can’t control. However, I used to get angry and frustrated when I felt I was stuck in it. Now whenever in it, I express gratitude for the opportunity to practice patience and mindfulness. I use the time to do a gratitude exercise or listen to a personal development podcast by teachers like Eckhart Tolle or Wayne Dyer.
Another example deals with stress. I use to feel anxiety before certain workouts or business meetings where I was attached to the outcome. I’ve learned that stress, anxiety and worry are created in the mind. And because this is where they originate and I control the mind, I can minimize or eliminate them. The key to doing so is to be present. Occasionally stress and anxiety slip past my defenses and when I feel them, I run through the following steps:
- I ask what am I worried about or afraid of? Is it something I can control? If so, take care of it. If it’s an upcoming workout or race, eat clean, train and sleep. Case closed. If it’s something out of my control, let it go because there’s nothing I can do about it anyway and worry won’t change the outcome. Again, case closed.
- What if it’s something I really want? A relationship, something material, a different outcome? Attachment and expectations are where all suffering resides. When I let go of attachment to how I want something to go, I’m free from being occupied with what could happen or the “what ifs” if it doesn’t happen so I can focus on what is happening right now. When I’m present, I experience life and the people in it as opposed to life happening around me or to me on my way to something else.
- Acceptance. I’ve learned to accept people and situations just as they are instead of resisting the facts about them. And when I say acceptance, I mean being loving and kind in my energy towards them. I love people based on who they are and who they are not, rather than how I think they should be. We are all extensions of each other. To dislike, judge or hate someone is to hate myself. That no longer makes sense to me. And to resist a situation as it shows up in life is a waste of energy and a missed opportunity to create something meaningful from what’s there.
Training the mind is not easy, but if you want a peaceful, loving and happy life, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s true that no one or no-thing can make you happy. Only you can do that. Money, fame, power and relationships won’t do it. But a trained mind rooted in the present, aware of its power to choose how it sees people and things and a commitment to train it, can be make all the difference in the world.