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  • Our minds give us trouble.

  • And one of the leading ways people nowadays deal with them, is meditation.

  • Sessions where you quieten thoughts, empty the mind,

  • and focus on just a few things outside of you

  • like, the rustle of leaves, or the flow of water.

  • But, at the School of Life, we want to put forward an alternative,

  • or, rather a complementary idea.

  • We've devised a technique, based not on Eastern thought,

  • but on ideas that come down to us from the Western philosophical tradition.

  • We call it, a "philosophical meditation"

  • The basic premise is that a lot of the trouble in our minds,

  • comes from thoughts that haven't been untangled, examined, and properly confronted.

  • And that because life moves so fast, we accumulate a lot of un-thought thoughts

  • on a daily basis.

  • Insomnia, for example,

  • is chiefly the revenge of thoughts we havent had in the day.

  • Muddled, unfocused thoughts generate a static of anxious electricity,

  • or else give rise to clouds of nonspecific gloom.

  • If we've been out of touch with our thoughts for too long,

  • we can get snappy or suddenly enraged.

  • This, is what philosophical meditation is designed to help us with.

  • It's a tool for systematically clearing up our minds,

  • and making sense of our disavowed feelings and ideas.

  • The first priority, is to set aside a bit of time.

  • Idealy some twenty minutes at least once every few days.

  • You should sit, probably in bed, early in the morning,

  • or late in the evening, with a pad of paper,

  • and ancher your investigation of yourself around 3 large questions.

  • Firstly: "What am I currently anxious about?"

  • Secondly: "What am I upset about, and with whom?"

  • And thirdly: "What am I currently excited and ambitious about?"

  • At first, when asked to respond to question like these

  • the mind tends to be inarticulate and a bit scared.

  • Generally, something comes to mind, but often you can't quite tell what it is yet.

  • It might, just for now, be a word, or a mental image, or a place, or a persons name.

  • This doesn't matter.

  • Grab the ideas when they're there without thinking too much, write everything down,

  • however minor, and don't worry too much about it's ultimate sense.

  • Philosophical meditation can be compared to cleaning out a large, clogged-up cupboard.

  • You have to take everything out and pile it up on the bed first

  • before starting to sort it out.

  • So, to kick off, under: "What am I anxious about?"

  • You might accumulate a list of concerns you haven't looked at head on,

  • but have glimpsed in the course of the day.

  • It'll be nonsense to anyone else,

  • and perhaps almost to yourself too, but keep going.

  • With all the thoughts taken out, then past and through the sieve of a set of questions.

  • Ask: "What is this anxiety really about?"

  • Tell the story of the coming anxious period or challenge in great, almost tedious detail.

  • Then, confront head on everything that could go wrong

  • with the worrying situation or idea.

  • Now tease out how you might still be OK, even if the worst happened.

  • Don't cheer yourself up with false optimism.

  • Make yourself at home with the darkest possibilities.

  • Realize that almost everything is ultimately rather survivable.

  • Then, it's time to move on to the second part of the philosophical meditation;

  • the bit where you ask the second big question:

  • "Who am I upset with and why?"

  • The theory here, is that we often don't allow ourselves

  • to analyze the hurts that we receive from other people

  • because we're humiliatingly vulnerable and pretend we're not.

  • Yet we pay for this false stoicism dearly.

  • For undigested hurts generate bitterness, confusion,

  • and misdirected aggression.

  • We might go cold on our partners, with whom we're unknowingly furious.

  • So, empty the cupboard of the mind of all its multiple hurts.

  • Take all you've written, and pass it through the following set of questions:

  • Retell yourself all of the upsetting incidents you've faced,

  • in great detail, as if you were telling them to an extremely kind, interested

  • and patient friend.

  • Then ask:

  • "How might a nice person have end up doing what this person did to you?"

  • If they weren't actively mean,

  • What other explanations could there be for the hurt they have caused?

  • Lastly, if this would happen to a friend, how would you advise them?

  • Next, it's time to take out of the cupboard of the mind all the thoughts

  • that relate to ambition, and excitement.

  • This needs a range of positive emotions,

  • tremors of interest, tentative enthusiasm to lights and so on

  • that are hovering on the edges of consciousness.

  • Ask: "What recently made you feel excited, envious or desiring?"

  • There's then an another set of questions to sieve these feelings through.

  • Describe your excitements as if to a sympathetic, interested friend.

  • You need to change your life in certain ways,

  • so, what would it be, to change your life in the light of this?

  • This exciting thing holds clue to whats missing in your life, what might be missing?

  • If this thing could talk, what might it tell you?

  • If this thing could try to change your life, what changes might it advise?

  • If other parts of your life were more like this, what might they be like?

  • Answering all these questions starts the vital work

  • of decoding the scrambled thoughts, that normally clog up our minds.

  • The longer we've gone without doing one of these mental audits,

  • the more there will be to go through.

  • Philosophical meditation doesn't magically solve problems,

  • but it huuugely helps us, by creating an occasion

  • where we can identify our thoughts, and get them in some kind of order.

  • Fears, resentments, and hopes become easier to name.

  • We get less scared of the contents of our own minds

  • we grow calmer, less bitter and clearer about our diection in life.

  • We start, at last on the journey to knowing ourselves properly.

Our minds give us trouble.

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B1 UK philosophical anxious cupboard life sieve mind

Philosophical Meditation

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    Dareen posted on 2016/12/17
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