As this journey through a second awakening continues, I’ve been sharing here and on social what I’m discovering and experiencing. One of the gifts (said with only a slight amount of sarcasm) of a spiritual experience is that it brings the unconscious into the conscious; what’s been secretly influencing in the dark into the light. My work this weekend was focused on bringing into the light the stories my mind is telling about the current experiences.

The mind tells stories. Especially about anything that feels painful. And a spiritual experience is always painful. The mind is just doing its job: to create a framework to attempt to understand a painful experience. This is a survival mechanism and an evolutionary trait. The mind is a problem-solving, meaning-making machine.

We’d like to think we are sane and rational beings. But look at how the mind can turn a piece of input and either twist into the shape of an ogre or inflate into a magical unicorn. The stories of the mind are consistently and shockingly wrong.

The mind will tell stories about the standard experiences of life. But something different happens in the mind during a spiritual experience. The mind can not comprehend it. So it treats it all as trauma and makes up stories about it. These stories produce an incredible amount of mental anguish. They are exhausting and constant. Thus, my motivation to divorce myself from them.

There is always a catalyst that causes my mind to make up a story. It could be an external thing like a strange noise outside at night. Or one of the thousands of internal triggers that we simply call thoughts and feelings. I have no actual control over the stimuli (catalyst) or the response (the story). Past experiences have set these deep in my mind.

But listening to the stories of the mind is a habit; an unconscious impulse.

And we now know that you can’t eliminate an old unhealthy habit — you have to replace it with a new healthy habit.

So how do I break this habit and what do I replace it with?

It starts with this …

I can refuse to participate in the story. I can be a witness to it, not a character in it. That is 100% my choice.

This allows a new healthy habit to emerge … to live a true story.

The true story is the spiritual experience. It is whatever my body, heart and soul are experiencing. NOT how the mind is processing those experiences. Further, I’m learning that I can’t be in the spiritual experience and also be in the story my mind is telling at the same time. I have to choose which story to be a part of.

Much of the habit of listening to stories of the mind comes from unprocessed or suppressed emotions. So when I can stop thinking about what I’m feeling and just feel, I discover the true story. You know you’ve found the true story when you feel it all in this present moment; when the spiritual experience and the true story have no distinguishable separation.

Another helpful tool in breaking this habit …

I’ve been listening to Sarah Blondin’s “Coming Home to Yourself” series on Insight Timer. One of the exercises she recommends is to change your relationship with your mind and the stories it tells. She used the example of writing your mind a letter. So I did the same thing …

Dear Mind,

I love you. Thank you for being such a loyal friend and constant resource. I’m here in large part because of you. But pain has distanced us; making us suspicious of each other. I don’t want you to be an enemy. I want to be friends again; allies again. In order to do that, I must ask that you stop defining my story as pain. I must ask that you not seek information to soothe your fears. I must ask that you not fill the unknown with false stories. I know you are here to catalog information, to solve problems, to strategize, to keep my body alive. Please use all of these skills to be the guardian of the true story. Please be a faithful soldier to my heart. I still need you. I just need you to catch up and align with where the rest of me is. 

Love, Justin

Breaking the habit of listening to the mind’s stories is producing even great sensitivities in my being. As I think less and experience more, the emotions I’m feeling around love, grief, yearning, absence are even more pronounced. In an effort to protect me from these feelings, my mind suppressed the flavors of living a true story.

Most of my life has not been living a true story. I don’t judge myself for this. I did not know then what I know now. And I know that pain separated me from my soul and became much of my identity. I know that I exiled myself repeatedly in order to seek validation and legitimacy. I know that I often pretended to be something I wasn’t. And I know that I believed the stories my mind was telling.

This second awakening is also a second opportunity to live a true story. A trusting, tender, vulnerable, evolving story full of Love, radical honesty and intimacy. This is the story I want to participate in.

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