In Buddhist psychology, the mind is everything: our minds are both the cause of our suffering and the avenue through which to overcome it. The Buddha taught that “the mind is everything”, that we become what we think and that happiness depends solely on our thoughts, nothing else. On the flipside, the Buddha is also quoted as saying that “nothing can harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.”
Through this perspective, our sense of well-being stems from perception, and from our ability to “detach” from our thoughts. Such thought detachment – also known as mindfulness – means stepping back from the constant mind-chatter, seeing our thoughts as clouds moving in the sky or captions across a TV screen – we can acknowledge them without attaching to them, buying into their storylines or following them down the rabbit hole.
If our minds were a naturally “happy place”, there would be no need to practice the skill of mindfulness. But from an evolutionary perspective, our minds are wired to see the negative and focus on problems. And while such a bias is necessary for our survival, it clearly doesn’t help us out in terms of our mental health.
So what do we do about this conundrum? We meditate; practice mindfulness; and understand that perception is everything. Luckily, and in light of research on neuroplasticity, we can counter-condition our brains to be a more positive, peaceful place. We learn to “drop out of our heads” and live more from our hearts, from wisdom, from our true essence. Meditation helps us cultivate more of a relationship with awareness, presence, who we really are. We begin to realize that we are not our thoughts and that peace begins with a disciplined mind.
So today, practice seeing each moment clearly, without judgment, exactly as it is. Try taking your thoughts less seriously, and you’ll soon find that, ironically, “peace of mind” exists where the mind does not.