What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.Buddha
Do you want to know something I find amusing, but my mom finds shameful? To preface, when I was younger, I caused a lot of trouble. I’m sure it’s impossible to count on two hands how many times I’ve caused my mom Level-10-Agida.
There are countless stories: when I was two years old, wandering off on my own in an open flea market amongst thousands of people, only to find me taking candy off shelves at a Minimart; or the time I wandered off only to be lured by a strange man because he promised me chocolate (thank goodness my uncle found me before it was too late – apparently I was walking off hand-in-hand with the stranger).
What about the two times I was handcuffed before my high-school years – once for shoplifting hair products (lol!) and also for being in a car with older boys who decided to try and evade cops after running a red light (I blame all of this on getting caught up with the wrong crowd).
I know I was a huge source of stress for my mom; I also know that there isn’t another woman who I can consider as resilient and strong as my mother. But she’s not perfect – I catch her complaining about things in her life that she swears she has no control over. But these are all culminations of small thoughts that all add up.
In fact, I’ve decided to sit down and consider any and all ways I’ve kept myself locked up behind bars of my own making. There’s nothing worse than being trapped in a prison of my own making; instead of someone else tying me down or holding me back, I’ve found myself in numerous occasions of being kept prisoner of my own thoughts.
What did I come to find?
That there is a pattern of five major categories – five different prison locations, if you will – that we can become entangled in if we “mix in with the wrong crowd.”
Here are the five mental prisons we all find our ways into one way or another if we’re not careful:
- Assumptions. We make assumptions about things that aren’t observable – that’s the only way our brains can make sense of this world. It has to deduce certain truths in order to shape our behaviors. For example, if I’m standing in a long line at the cash register but someone cuts in front of me, my brain helps me to create an assumption – that b*st*rd just cut me off – and that assumption in turn helps me to stand up for myself. However, consider the situation in which the person that cut me off perhaps received a phone call that his daughter broke and fell her wrist in pre-K. The assumption I made doesn’t serve me very well. Understanding how our brains are wired, and then choosing how to harness its capabilities is critical in order to show up in a resourceful way.
- Beliefs. It takes a minimum of three legs to create a stool or chair that stands on its own. Likewise, all we need are three different experiences that create a belief about ourselves or the world we live in. For example, imagine yourself at five years old, never having had the experience of meeting a Harley motorcycle driver until one fateful summer afternoon. Imagine watching the person riding the Harley throwing an empty, class beer bottle at a group of teenagers walking by. Fast-forward a few weeks until the five-year-old you with your mom, driving by two people on a Harley on the backroads; you’re stopped at a red light, and you notice the driver get off the motorcycle only to push off the person sitting behind him. At that point, the five year-old version of you is beginning to see a pattern; but it isn’t until when you’re six years old, and hear a story about your classmate, Alex, and how he wasn’t going to be able to come to school anymore because his mom disappeared with her “friend,” whom you’ve seen riding a Harley when he was picked up last week. After three, consistent thoughts, you’ve begun to create beliefs about Harley-riders, albeit grossly inaccurate ones. Consider how having such a belief influences the way you interact with others in this “category” of Harley drivers.
- Comparisons. I’ll never be the wittiest in the room; you’ll never be the most outspoken; he’ll never be the bravest; the other person you were thinking about yesterday will never be the most humble. The point is, neither I nor you, nor anyone else will ever be the “best” at anything. Do you look in the mirror and wish you looked as sexy as your classmate, as confident as your colleague, or as accomplished as your high school friend? I can’t stress this enough: the more you make comparisons, the less the real you has the chance of ever showing up. Putting ourselves within the confines of someone else’s mold only adds unnecessary strains to the way our energy wants to line up and flow. Trust me – considering how you don’t have all the shiny objects as the next person will only put you on a ceaseless hamster wheel, never getting anywhere but more tired, confused, and stuck.
- Expectations. If you were to stop and keep count of how many times you “should” yourself, you’d lose count long before two hours had passed. Unfortunately, we get lost in confusing our heart’s desires with others’ desires. When your heart truly wants something, thinking about having it makes you feel bigger, more expansive. But when you consider something that you think you want, but is in reality something others told you you wanted, makes you feel constricted, like you can’t take enough breaths. These should’s become false expectations of who you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to do.
- Perfectionism. Similar to the illusory false expectations as explained above, perfectionism is rampant – especially in those of us who have ADHD. Have you ever found yourself having so many wonderful ideas and project dreams, only to fall into another state of disappointment with yourself because you can never seem to get it off the ground? Welcome to the world of perfectionism, my friend. This is one of my “favorite” mental prisons to visit. A desire to achieve excellence becomes mistaken with perfectionistic ideals, and we fall prey to believing a lie, that we’re not good enough to achieve X, Y, Z.
So how do we make a break for it? Jailbreak can only be considered in three circumstances:
Seek to have integrity.
Work hard; dedication works wonders in increasing self-confidence. Create tangible goals; becoming a better, more enlightened person doesn’t mean you have to be off in the clouds in airy-fairy worlds. Finally, it’s easiest to pursue integrity when you’re in your feels. It helps you to consider your influence on others, but in a way that truly matters.
Remember that this lifetime only offers a finite window.
I still remember when the truth of my purpose began to settle in. It was after the dust of aha moments began to settle down that I really understood what it meant to be part of the infinite truth having a human experience. Simply stated, I lived in constant fear of what was on the other side of death; Was there really a god that would judge the culmination of my deeds? Would I cease to exist? As relieving as it’s been for me to understand that I don’t cease to exist when this body fails me, and that God is the energy of all things, it’s also given me a level of comfort that has created a lackadaisical attitude. Whether I have other lifetimes after this one or not, the human experience requires us to acknowledge time as a linear truth: which means, there isn’t much more time left for you or me. Love others, receive the love in all things, build something you can be proud of, something that challenges you, and remove all illusions that limit you.
Perhaps the most important,
Heal your mind, body, heart, and soul. Everything that comes into your conscious awareness is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, and to make yourself better in some way. No matter how much time and effort you devote to enlightenment, there will always be things that are simply hidden; we simply don’t have the hardware to comprehend things. Perhaps, eventually, humanity will come to the point where we have enough software available to make upgrades towards complete enlightenment. Currently, we’re just not there yet. So do your best in understanding what makes you tick, how you can improve and expand your mind and heart, and heal your soul of pains, burdens, suffering that no longer belong in your existence.
Live with intention. Inspire with love.