Tame your thoughts.

It’s been all over the news.
People hate being left alone with their thoughts.
No, we don’t hate being alone.
A walk in the woods is a pleasant experience.
And so are problem solving and creative endeavors.
But not sitting alone in a stripped down room.
With instructions to entertain ourselves with only our thoughts.
Many of us would rather shock ourselves for kicks.
I’m not sure why this is news.
It’s certainly not new.
Leave a baby on her back with nothing to do and watch what happens.
Tell a little boy to sit quietly facing the corner.
Watch a teenager during a boring car ride.
Or place a prisoner in solitary confinement.
We are not thinking machines.
Our brains weren’t designed to happily run mental programs.
We’re feeling creatures.
Our monkey minds have evolved to engage with the outside world.
To discover, learn, negotiate, and play.
Left alone with our thoughts, we mentally spiral down.
Just like lions in a cage.
Buddha came to this realization more than two thousand years ago.
“Nothing can harm a man so much as his own thoughts untamed.”
Some people have learned to tame those thoughts through meditation.
Others use alcohol, drugs, busywork, and meaningless distractions.
And a fortunate few find it in meaningful work and healthy relationships.
Here’s today’s reality.
It’s becoming exponentially more difficult to cope.
The cacophony of competing voices is maddening.
Is the noise in your head getting louder?
Are your thoughts spinning out of control?
Isolation has a way of doing that.
But your life is not a lab experiment.
So get up from your chair and leave.
Connect with people.
Genuinely care and find out how you can help.
Desmond Morris pointed the way forward in The Naked Ape.
“We never stop investigating.
We are never satisfied that we know enough to get by.
Every question we answer leads on to another question.
This has become the greatest survival trick of our species.”
Let the questions of your environment, and of our times, tame your mind.
And those questions?
Don’t delude yourself.
They are not “up there,” in your head.
They’re “out there,” in the world.