Lesson #3: Molehills into Mountains: The Mind’s Metier

Posted on May 10, 2012


One of my favorite spiritual gurus, Byron Katie, constantly challenges her clients to explore the question,”Who would you be without your story?”

And by that, I believe what she’s asking is who would we be if we started to examine the destructive narratives our minds come up with? Who would we be if we stopped believing the stories that hold us back from being our awesome, powerful selves? 

For me, the big, personal epiphany I had during my first Vipassana retreat was realizing how my mind never stops telling some kind of story about something. Once I realized this, it wasn’t long before I started listening to these stories from a detached point of view. {The observer, the watcher, the wise self, whatever you want to call it.} I just started noticing the plot lines of these stories.

What I witnessed was this: My mind, probably like yours, often takes something small, a molehill if you will, and turns into a large, intimidating mountain very quickly and without any real evidence. In fact, if there’s one thing my mind is really great at, it’s snowballing something small into something large in a matter of minutes.

Here’s a perfect, and quite common, example of my mind’s story at work: Someone doesn’t text me back right away. Even though I am incredibly guilty of texting people in a delayed fashion {This is a complete euphemism. I’m terrible at returning text messages}, my mind still takes this small action and starts to tell a story about it. A negative story, too. About how my text was stupid. About how so and so probably doesn’t like me. About how I should stop texting anyone, ever!

Really, mind. Get a grip.

This happens constantly. The person at the grocery store accidentally cuts in front of me and before you know it, I’ve got a complete narrative about how inconsiderate this jerk is.

Catching the mind as it starts its storytelling is a really great skill to have. Even though the mind is practically gifted at this, it often times doesn’t have any evidence to accurately back-up its narratives. Or it uses a small piece of evidence to weave a huge story when there’s a lot of opposing evidence available to prove it wrong. {ie: Even though you’ve been told by many that you have a great figure, you still dwell on the guy from the 7th grade who called you fat whenever you’re feeling body-conscious}.

What I’ve noticed through my practice of Vipassana meditation is that, for some reason, our minds often assume the worst of ourselves. I’m pretty sure many of our mind’s narratives are powered from lizard-fear fuel. Learning to identify that the story your mind is telling you is just a story is a great first step to greater happiness.