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The Tinkered Mind
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March 15th, 2021
A hallmark of depression and anxiety is perseveration, or the continued and repeated occurrence of an unpleasant thought. The mind becomes like a broken record of subversive affirmation. This sort of mental behavior can persist for years, decades and potentially for many unfortunate people’s entire lifetimes.
We are usually so close to our thoughts that we fail to see a separation. Are our thoughts not a representation of who we are? As odd as it may seem, the answer is no.
With a little practiced separation from thoughts and emotions we gain the ability to choose which thoughts are best to entertain, and which are best to let pass into oblivion. With enough training, the experience of perseveration diminishes until even the memory of such a mental habit is forgotten, passing into oblivion.
The mental training of mindfulness achieves this separation, if given enough time and practiced with enough consistency. When such a practice is robust and mature, the experience of a negative or unproductive thought changes completely. Instead of a struggle that invariably perpetuates the exact thing we are trying to stop, a meditation practice becomes a tool that can be implemented at a moment’s notice. Whereas the popular conception of meditation is a mind devoid of thoughts, it’s perhaps better thought of as a mind that can decide to let go of a thought. The difference is important. A mind devoid of thought precludes future thoughts, but this isn’t possible. Thoughts pop up as if on their own accord, but the meditative mind may let go of them as they emerge. For a person who was once tortured by thought, the practice shows it’s true power when on the rare circumstance this old style of thought comes back. The mental training slams down on the old unwelcome thought like a hammer, crushing it out of mind and existence.