The normal mind is hard-wired to ensure that you will never find peace of mind. Research confirms that each of us is peppered with, on average, some fifty thousand thoughts each day. Many of these whizz through our field of consciousness at such speed that we don’t notice them. Then there are those that we do notice that are simply random – the kind of stupid things that distract us or make us lose our so-called train of thought. For example, we might interrupt ourselves from what we’re supposed to be doing by reminding ourselves to do something important later – which we generally forget about later! Or our mind wanders onto something completely irrelevant to the place and time in which we find ourselves. I recollect, some years ago, sitting around the board table of a bank, scanning each of my colleagues faces in the realization that none of them was present in the room! Such thoughts – like “It’s a beautiful day, I wish I was on the golf course instead of stuck in this meeting” – undermine our best efforts to do what we’re supposed to be doing at that point in time.
However, all those distractive thoughts are only a prelude to the main event – the worries, cares and doubts that unsettle us and damage our feeling of wellbeing. First of all, there are little things that we worry about – often silly things like, five minutes after you’ve got on the bus you wonder if you unplugged the curling tongs! Then there are worries that permeate our days or keep us tossing and turning at night. The normal mind will always find something to worry about. From parents worrying about wayward teenagers to people worrying about losing their jobs, from the money worries that appear to be plaguing more and more people, to those who are worried about their health, life throws all sorts of stuff at us that triggers the worry response. But the really interesting thing is that, when some big worry has passed, there will always be a queue of worries waiting to unsettle us. As a good friend and client told me recently: “I’ve been worrying about money and my business for the last five years – and with good reason, we were always on the verge of being broke. Then we won a couple of big contracts and, within no time at all, the business was flying and we were planning exotic holidays after not having had a decent vacation in a decade. Have I found peace of mind? Well, now I lie awake at night worried about the strange noise the washing machine was making, or annoying myself about a rattle in the car – things I never noticed when I had more important things to worry about!” There’s always some useless thought waiting to disturb the calm of the moment.
However, of all the fifty thousand thoughts rattling around your head every day, it is the less random, more regular thoughts that bubble up from the subconscious that are the most unsettling. Those thoughts of self doubt and fear that sabotage our peace of mind and, sometimes, our lives. These thoughts have nothing to do with the reality of the moment but arise from what psychology calls our ‘stored knowledge’ – what we learned about who we are during our formative years. From fear of public speaking, to feelings of inadequacy in social situations, from low self esteem to perverse beliefs in one’s lack of intelligence, these thoughts ensure that peace of mind is a far off promised land, never to be reached. Yet, all these thoughts have one thing in common – they are a mirage, a concoction of a backward-looking subconscious mind – that have no place in the here and now. But try telling that to yourself when you find yourself in a state of panic!
The well established fact is that, under the normal circumstances of everyday life and as a consequence of the manner in which the normal mind operates, the normal person will never, ever achieve peace of mind. But, if you do really want to go to that promised land, then, in your ordinary daily life, you are, in fact, only one step removed from it. Or, now that I actually consider what I’m writing, you are already in the promised land of peace of mind – it’s just that you don’t notice it!
And, indeed, the secret to achieving peace of mind is to be found in your ability to notice. Yes, psychology has established the link between your ability to notice and your ability to be on that so-called natural high. If you’re not very good at noticing, you’ll never be happy and content. The good news is that we all have an innate ability to notice, so we can all train ourselves to develop that ability.
To notice what? Well, what’s before your very eyes. The reality of the present moment. Come to your senses and smell the roses! As things stand, your useless thoughts divorce your from the reality of now. They twist and warp the present moment so that you feel uncomfortable and unsettled. But that’s got nothing whatsoever to do with the circumstances of the moment, it’s all the result of your useless thoughts. When you focus on those thoughts, you cannot pay attention to what your five senses are telling you about the reality of the moment. You need to come to your senses.
So, why not set five or ten minutes aside each morning to come to your senses. Find somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. That could be your den at six o’clock in the morning – but it’s just as likely to be a packed commuter train where no-one is paying a blind bit of attention to what’s going on (they’re all lost in their own personal useless thoughts). Simply, one sense at a time, see, feel, here, smell and taste what’s going on. Don’t interpret it, just observe it. The more you practice paying attention to your senses, the more it will grow on you – and by bringing your attention back to the reality of the present moment, you will prevent it drifting off onto the thoughts that destroy your happiness and contentment. Peace of mind is here and now – all you have to do is open your eyes to see it.
Willie Horton has been enabling his clients live their dream since he launched is now acclaimed two-day Personal Development Seminars all the way back in 1996. His clients include top leaders in major corporations such as Pfizer, Deloitte, Nestle, Merrill Lynch, KPMG, G4S and Allergan together with everyone from the stay-at-home parent to sports-people. An Irish ex-banker and author of To Succeed Just Let Go, he lives in the French Alps from where he travels the world as a much sought after motivational speaker and mentor. All his work, his free weekly personal development videos and articles, together with his highly-acclaimed Personal Development Workshops are online at Gurdy.Net