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Staying Awake in the Driver’s Seat

We didn’t design our minds, and its not up to us to make them work perfectly – they are already designed for success. Just like when you drive a car, your job is to understand how it works, but chances are, you didn’t design or build the engine. Someone else did, someone who probably knows a lot more about engines than you do.

One of the things you learn about driving a car is that if a red light comes on the dashboard, you need to pay attention to it, and address it as soon as possible, or take it to someone who can. If you ignore it, you can get in big trouble – the oil could run out and destroy the engine, for example. But if you didn’t know this, you might see that red light and think, ‘I don’t want to deal with this right now. I’m having such a beautiful drive through countryside, and responding to that red light is such a hassle.’

So it is with the human mind. Our feelings show us moment-by-moment whether our minds are running smoothly, or not. When they are, our thoughts flow along effortlessly They move from the mundane, as we address life and work tasks, to the sublime, when our minds clear and we get in touch with a flow of fresh, invigorating, and often inspired thinking. Our minds do this on their own, because that’s what they’re designed to do. When our minds aren’t running smoothly and our thoughts get repetitive and stress-producing, its an indicator that that we lost our awareness of where our feelings are coming from.

Just like its not your job to make the engine of your car work properly (unless of course you’re a mechanic!), it’s not your job to make yourself have healthy, productive thoughts. Your only job is understanding; having an understanding and an awareness of how it works.

When you understand that your feelings can only come from your thinking in the moment, feelings that make us uncomfortable, like anxiety, fear and insecurity, come and go like any other thought we feel. When you forget that your feelings can only come from your thinking in the moment, you lose your awareness, and, in a sense, you go to sleep to what’s really happening. It begins to look to you like your uncomfortable feelings are coming from something you’re thinking about, something outside your own thoughts, or perhaps a mixture of something outside you and your own thinking. As soon as it looks to you like life is causing your feelings, you’re a goner. Thought begins to multiply exponentially. You’ll feel lost in the fog of your own thinking. That’s your indicator that you’ve gone to sleep.

Staying awake in the driver’s seat is a simple matter of understanding how your own mind works, and choosing to pay attention when those red lights come on. That awareness will guide you back to safety, to your mental well being and grounding in the present, every time.

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