I spent the end of 2009 in Barcelona, walking endlessly from one architectural marvel to the next, enjoying the buskers playing incredible Spanish guitar and indulging my culinary cravings with the most glorious of foods. On one particular day, in the company of some close friends, I devoured what seemed like (and probably was) an exaggerated number of tapas. The menu lacked variety so we ended up ordering repeat dishes; one such plate was the foie gras, which till 3 weeks ago was an absolute favorite of mine...until I got food poisoning the following morning that is.
Every single time I thought of the dish in question I felt a strong dash of nausea, only repelled by the resilience that kept me from vomiting on Barcelona's poshest of avenues. I kept reminding myself not to think of the offending food, but the thought kept emerging from the depths of my mind. Why was I battering myself with the continuous thoughts that were certain to cause distress in the stomach regions? Couldn't I simply avoid the subject and focus on the pleasant things that existed in my surroundings? The answer to this question is simple; we have no control over the thoughts that bombard the inner walls of our heads.
Some people call it an inner voice; others refer to it as the inner critic; the special label I have put aside for it is the intermediary. The name originates from my personal interpretation, fruit of an inquisitive observation and desire to unchain myself from the reactions that are stirred as collateral. The thoughts that arise, stand between our consciousness and the external world, providing us with perceptions, judgements and provocation. These thoughts steer us away from experiencing life at first hand, the way children do. We lose touch with the virgin, pure experience and add layers of interpretation that cloud the clarity we are given at birth.
Had we total control over these thoughts, we would never allow negative feelings to roam freely within the complex channels that make up the matrix inside our minds; we would probably intoxicate ourselves with happiness, bliss and joy. That, however, is a utopia that can only exist in fiction. Reality, on the other hand, is that the intermediary is a separate entity that grows bigger every time we fuel it by giving attention or allow triggered feelings to take over and waste mental energy in confrontation. The thoughts will always arise and that cannot be changed. What can change though, is the way we react to these intrusions.
Ever met someone who is trying to pick a fight at all costs? The worst thing one could do is to confront the bully, because that is exactly what he is looking for. Passively ignoring this person could also lead to unfavorable situations. However, if one had to acknowledge the bully without reacting to the provocation, the latter would simply retract into nothingness...little by little, the bully loses ground and a point will arrive when he has nothing else to grab onto.
Dealing with the external thoughts is similar in many ways. Suppressing the feelings or avoiding them is not good; they will resurface with greater strength in the future. The same applies whenever we allow these thoughts to turn into negative feelings, bad moods and depressed states. If however we acknowledge these thoughts without getting involved, they will simply leave us in peace. Next time they come up, they will have less to hang onto, until there will come a point where they will become totally irrelevant to us.
One should learn to observe these thoughts and feelings from a detached point of view. We are not our feelings and the feelings inside our being are not us. Instead of saying 'I am angry' try and say 'there is a feeling of anger inside of me'. This way of reasoning vests us in the role of observer, thus retaining total control on our actions and states of mind. This practice will eventually lead to the understanding that these thoughts are fruit of years of conditioning and shaping, passed onto us by a sick society. We can, and should, break this circle and strive to achieve mental clarity and regain that direct, uncontaminated experience.