Are you living in your head?
I don’t claim to be mentally superior than anyone. Ever. I can only speak from my own experience, which has been quite extreme when compared to those close to me. However, I know some people are struggling mentally, and even through the hardship I’ve been through, I still feel content. I put a lot of it down to Yamabushi training, but for what it’s worth I thought I’d offer a few words on things I’ve been thinking recently.
Are you living in your head?
I think it’s easy for us to do so. It’s the default option. We are constantly being barraged with thoughts and ideas from the outside that make us constantly question our existence. This is only getting worse the more connected we become. I think this is unhealthy, and if you look at the history of human beings, being this connected is also unnatural.
One method to deal with it would be to ignore everything. Turn off your smartphone, don’t pick up the paper, don’t read the news. I think that’s a perfectly acceptable response. The problem is when it comes to practicality.
For those able to shut themselves off from the outside world, I applaud you. For those of us who can’t, I think it helps to realise that we have the option to do so, even temporarily (which I thoroughly recommend every once in a while, you’ll realise that nothing overly extreme ever happens*), but also that managing this information becomes much more important.
The information will come at you no matter what. As with anything in Zen, the way you respond to it is what matters. As mentioned, ignoring it is definitely an option. In fact, in Zen, that’s basically all you do. All the superfluous thoughts, you just let them go without giving them the time of day, or any time at all. If you can do that, you win. But that takes a bit of practice, which is when meditation comes into it. For those who don’t do so already, I highly recommend sitting down regularly and just let the thoughts come and go. The trick is to not fixate yourself on one thing, and when you realise you are doing so, push it out of your mind.
That would be my first point. And I think this is a way of distancing yourself from the information that does come in. Although this is done in your head, it’s a way of getting it out of your head.
Second, choose how you respond to this stimulus. Know that the world is out to get you, that the resistance as Steven Pressfield so elegantly puts it is going to creep up on you no matter what. Don’t let it. Accept its existence, and just move on.
What it means to live in your head, is that you take things to heart too much. You don’t let the feelings just pass. I think this is a perfectly normal human response, and it takes practice to avoid. It’s this practice that we need more of.
Use your head to avoid living in your head. Simple idea. Hard practice. But hard and impossible are two different things, right? Otherwise they would be the same word.
*a side note on this point. Two years ago during Yamabushi training, we were on the mountains and we could hear a loud-speaker announcement saying that North Korea had sent a missile and it was headed in our general direction. Turns out it was nothing, but it was an interesting test in control.
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