A place for people interested in introspection, self awareness, mindfulness, meditation and training the mind to abide in a state that is free from the constant flow of meaningless chatter, mind theatrics, and discursive thought.

Self Control

Self Control

Martial Arts Self Control Poster

As we go through our lives, even though we seem to understand at some level that we are constantly being subjected to unknowns and anything can happen at any moment, most of us seem to believe that we have some sort of ultimate control over every aspect of our day to day life. We like to believe that we can control our destiny with absolute certainty. And of course, when things don't work out the way we had planned, we find much dis-harmony and stress in our lives.

Our outer world is filled with constant change and movement in often unpredictable directions. We forget that there are no absolute certainties in life. We make plans for our life to move in a certain direction, but then something unexpected happens and we become very stressed and agitated. We can build a great deal of mental anguish and pain around events that don't go our way.

When we allow our mind to become engaged in the stress of not getting what we want or expect, we find our mind can either wander into the past, as regret (If I could do it all over again I would do it this way) or into the future as anxiety, fear, anger, and worry (What if it happens again? Next time I will do this! or Oh No! How will I handle it the next time).

A mind that falls under stress quickly begins to feel helpless and trapped. We can even begin to feel like others are out to get us, or some unnkown force is at work disrupting our control over our own life.

Meanwhile, all of the inner turmoil our mind generates when this happens is accepted as something we have no control over. We look to outside places to lay the blame for why we feel the way we feel, or why life seems to be treating us unfairly. We can always find a place to lay the blame; if so and so hadn't done this, or if only that had not happened.

The single greatest cause of all of this inner stress, whether it is anxiety, fear, worry, anger, hatred, regret or any other stressful emotion is a failure to recognize what we can control and what we can not.

We think we can control our outer world and feel we have no control over our inner world, believing our inner world is shaped and molded by the external world. Both assumptions are incorrect. We have it quite backwards.

When we learn to accept the outer world for the way it is, and watch our inner world with complete self awareness, we learn we have control over our inner world. We can choose how to react, or choose not to react, to external circumstances. When we realize we have no control over what happens outside of us, we find inner freedom.

The ability to control one's outer world is an illusion. Believing it is possible is a source of great dis-harmony and stress in one's life. 

The in-ability to control one's inner world is also an illusion. Believing it is impossible is an even greater source of dis-harmony and stress in one's life.

Michael L. Fournier

Wildfires in the Mind

Wildfires in the Mind

As close observation of the inner working of the mind progresses, space between thoughts begins to open up and one can observe and experience periods of silent, peaceful, quietude in which all internal mental dialogue ceases. With diligent practice, the moments when thoughts subside become more frequent and easier to observe. The mind shifts into silent states in which it is aware without having to make any mental commentary or judgements.

From within this state of pure awareness, the next challenge is to try to catch thoughts as they begin to arise. In the beginning, thoughts will likely progress a bit before they can be caught, but as soon as this is recognized the mind should be pulled back into the silence. As the practice progresses, it becomes progressively easier to catch thoughts just as they begin to emerge. From within the silence this may be observed as a random word or visual image suddenly appearing and attempting to grow into a more complex thought form. The practice is to simply catch it as it emerges, and, as it is being observed it will tend to fall away on its own, so long as the thought is not being indulged upon.

When we indulge a thought with any amount of interest, it will grow and take shape because we are feeding it the energy it needs to take its form. If we simply observe without indulgence, we are giving it no energy or room to grow and it will wither and subside on it own like a plant that is not given any water.

There is however, a trickier, more difficult type of thought emergence to catch. To understand this more difficult thought emergence, we must first make a distinction between two types of thoughts. First there are the discursive, free flow, mind theatrics type of thoughts that always have a time component to them. This can include daydreaming, fantasizing, regrets of the past, worries of the future, etc.. In general, it can quickly be observed that this class of thoughts do not serve us very well, and are the greatest source of disharmony in our lives. They are also the most prevalent form of thought. For most people they run completely unchecked and unchallenged, which is why most people do not recognize them as a source of discord.

Secondly, are deliberate, intentional thoughts. This type of thought process always occurs purely in the present moment, that is to say there is no time component to them. These are the type of thoughts that are used in creativity, problem solving or in learning. They are a tool and as such, like any tool, should be put away when we are finished with them. In other words, when the mind is not actively engaged in creativity, problem solving or learning types of activity, the mind should be returned to the silent state.

It is this second type of thought patterns that give rise to the more difficult to catch type of thought emergence. Because we have engaged the mind, because we are indulging in mental activity, we are giving thought processes energy to take form. Within this process, a random word or picture may still try to emerge in the same way as it emerges from the silent mind. Because we have the mind engaged, and thus are providing our thought processes energy to grow, the emergence of discursive thought is like a spark hitting dry grass. The fuel source is there, the mind is engaged. The spark, if not caught immediately, will grow very rapidly and can quickly get away from the observer. Discursive thought then spreads like a wildfire.

If one were working with an open flame near dry grass one would employ extra caution and greater awareness of ones actions in order to prevent a wildfire. In the same way, whenever thought is intentionally engaged for a specific purpose, increased diligence in thought observation is of the utmost importance.

Michael L. Fournier