Every morning, a farmer and a dog wait by the roadside for vehicles to come. As soon as a car drives by, the dog would chase the car down, barking as loud as it can, to catch the car. The neighbor sees this every morning. Puzzled by the daily ritual of the farmer and the dog, one day the neighbor asks the farmer, “Do you really think your dog is ever going to catch a vehicle?” The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What worries me is what would happen to the dog if it ever catches one.”
From a very young age, we are taught that there are two schools of thought in our mind; Positive and negative thoughts. From there on we are encouraged and even educated on removing negative thoughts and on cultivating and empowering positive thoughts.
It seems that it makes sense and also sounds good and moral. However, our mind doesn’t work that way. Our mind doesn't have an ability remove or suppress thoughts from its property, let alone the negative ones. What it has is an ability to amplify any thought.
When a thought comes to the mind, it is immediately in motion. Intentionally or involuntarily our attention is on the thought. We begin to dwell on it. More we think about the it, the bigger the thought becomes. The thought amplifies. If we don’t like the thought and if we put the attention on removing the undesired thought, the mind will completely disregard the remove part and proceeds with rapidly expanding the unwanted thought.
Here is a way to prove this. Let’s do the stillness practice. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, clear your mind and be still. For the first few seconds you are as calm as a mill pond. You are feeling peaceful. The next time you become aware of yourself and guess what…you realize that you have been drifted on a thought. That moment is against your stillness. Right? Then, you attempt to suppress or remove it, but you will find it difficult. To your surprise, the mind will locate similar memories and bring them forward. With more thoughts, the more anxious you become. Soon your stillness will come to an abrupt end. No matter how hard you try to suppress or remove those thoughts from your mind, you can’t.
Now the question is if the thoughts continuously streaming in to your mind, how do we keep our minds clear?
The answer is simple. We put a Gap between our thoughts and ourselves. This is an Aha moment. What it is telling is fundamentally you and your thoughts are two separate entities. With the Gap you become an observer. An observer of your own thoughts. The gap separates you from interacting with the thought!
Here's an analogy. Imagine you are driving on a two-way street. Traffic is going both directions. The median is drawn by a double yellow line. If a school bus stops (with stop sign extending out) on the opposite side of the road, you must also stop even though you are going in the other direction. Yes? However, if the median of the road is a solid concrete block, you don’t have to stop. You become a mere observer of the bus and continue on your merry way.
How do we put Gap between ourselves and our thoughts? By focusing on our physical self. By focusing on a movement of our body at the present moment.
That physical movement could be the breath – inhale/exhale. It could be the rise and fall of the chest and/or the stomach. Some focus on pacing back and forth – right foot forward, left foot forward. This is an exercise. An exercise that trains the mind to observe you.
Let’s do the stillness practice, again. You are sitting in a quiet place, with closed eyes and a clear your mind. You are suddenly aware that you have been drifted on a thought. Your mind has wandered away. That’s ok.
You simply acknowledge a thought has occurred and that you have wandered away from your focus (or stillness). No matter how criminal, depressing, sentimental, or ecstatic the thought maybe, simply acknowledge it. You may label it if you wish. Observe the thought. But, do not engage the thought. Now, gently bring your attention back to your current focus.
The self-focus exercise you have been practicing will help you to keep the thoughts separate from yourself. It helps you to acknowledge and bring attention to the present moment.
Soon the mind will create the gap between you and your thoughts. Because it begins to realize you and the thoughts are two separate entities.
This is Self-Awareness!
We are constantly engaging in every thought that crosses our minds. Some interactions are light, and some are deep. Thoughts are the reason for our success and well-being. Thoughts are also the reason for our downfall. If we allow our thoughts to misguide us, they can put us in danger. The danger lies in engagement becoming an addiction.
When we think of addictions, they are substance abuse; alcohol, cigarettes, prescription medicine, illegal drugs, gambling or even food. Addiction to thought is overlooked. Am I, right?
The addiction of thoughts come from habitual, indiscriminate engagements, which becomes the reality we live in. It becomes our world. No longer can we separate the good thoughts from the bad.
In that reality, one day we will begin a binding and an unrestrained conversation with a negative thought. The mind will bring-in past events and old memories, fueling and prolonging this internal conversation. We will power this conversation with vivid imagination and turn it into a brawl. The imagination is so incredible and will never transpire in the real word. But in our mind, this is the reality. We become delusional. We become irrational. The effect of the internal combustion shows up in external erratic behaviors. The erratic behaviors lead to destructive actions. Actions that harm ourselves and others.
The thoughts are there to serve you. Don’t let them enslave you.
Going back to my story in the beginning. What if the dog catches the car? The average car weighs about 4000 LBS/2 tons and moves at least 30-40 mph on a small road. An average dog weighs between 20 to 30 lbs. So, when, that one day, the dog happens to catch the moving vehicle, the car will destroy the dog beyond any recognition. Your thoughts are the vehicles. You are the dog that chases every car that passes by.
So, let me repeat, the thoughts are there to serve you. Don’t let them enslave you.
Being aware of the Gap is not just reserved for following a spiritual path. The Gap can have a big impact on everyday life and in the business world.
Being in the Gap allows us to think through problems and opportunities and be objective. The Gap easily puts us in a position to take on negative feedback and not be threatened by them. The Gap helps us not be impulsively emotional nor spontaneously reactive to our thoughts. We give ourselves the space to reason and be resilient. Managing emotions means a decrease in stress and an increase in productivity. The Gap creates an uninterrupted and unperturbed mind. The Gap mindset allows us a growth mindset.
We have heard that passion is the key to success. Every profitable business owes its success to a personal passion. No question about it. From a street sweeper becoming an owner of a residential & commercial cleaning service business, to a computer geek who now owns a major tech company. They have passion in common.
But remember, passion and love are intense emotions. Just like anger, it can mar your thinking and reality. A deep and personal passion can blind you to the hard realities that businesses face at any stage. That means going belly up. The Gap helps you to keep a clear line between Passion and Profitability. The ultimate goal of all businesses is…yes, you guessed it right, profit!
The Gap makes a world of difference!