Monday, February 23, 2009

MPOW #5 - Your Mind Is An Open Book

In the TV series True Blood based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, the main character Sookie Stackhouse is a telepath with the ability to read people's minds. Throughout her day, and especially during her job as barmaid, the crass thoughts of people around her often intrude on her mind, causing her to be completely inundated with lewd thoughts and rude judgments.

There may be some truth to the idea of mind-broadcasting. Consensus reality holds that likely people cannot read minds, so this is mostly a mental exercise with mindful benefits. However, something to be aware of is that our subvocalized thoughts often become obvious intentions readble on our non-poker faces and in our mannerisms. Even the best poker players have unconscious tells.

I observe my mind and try to keep it serene, imagining that my mind is an open book to everyone around me is a handy device. Am I thinking things that I would not say aloud--things that are harmful for me to think? Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path, introduced in the Pali Canon, is an octet of worthy qualities to develop. The third of these is Right Speech, which is to let only the moral, positive, and helpful pass your lips. The seventh noble quality is the more difficult to cultivate Right Mindfulness, which is about your inner speech, letting only the moral, positive, and helpful pass your mind. When you believe that your thoughts are an open scroll, it helps transfer the discipline in right speech to discipline in right mindfulness.

The Practice
For this week, imagine that others are listening to your thoughts. Pay attention to what others would hear if you were thinking aloud. Observe whether your thoughts serve you. If no one is around, see what your guides and guards observe. If they are pessimistic, see if you can steer them to optimistic. If they are judgmental, see if you can let go of judgment. If they are angry, sad, or fearful, see if you can introduce their antidotes into their place. This is how we cultivate "right thoughts" and think thoughts that serve us.

This post is dedicated to my lovely and talented sister Laura, who introduced me to True Blood. For most of my life, wondering how my reactions would reflect on Laura has been my moral compass. She always forgives me when I lose my way and helps me correct my course.

Request for Comments
  • Does this mindfulness practice work for you?
  • What have you learned from this?
  • Are there ways that you tweak this for even more improvement?

1 comment:

  1. This practice suggestion captures my attention. I've heard a lot about the importance of using positive "self-talk," in other words, making sure that I'm not discouraging my own potential for growth and happiness by criticizing myself inside my own mind all the time. However, I hadn't thought of using this practice of imagining that others can hear my thoughts as a tool for cultivating positive self talk, or as you say, thoughts that "serve me." And of course, this practice would discourage me from judging others too.

    One question comes up for me though: Isn't my mind the only place where I can be honest with myself about how I really feel, rather than censoring my thoughts and smoothing over the rough edges like I inevitably do when other people are listening? I guess my answer is that yes, that's true, but it's still interesting to observe my own thoughts as though others could hear. If nothing else, it makes me step back and consider what I'm thinking, which brings me into the moment. It may also help me to break some negative thought habits that, rather than being honest, are actually harmful and probably just lazy.