Apr 14 2014

Author:
Robert Levithan,

4 Comments

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Bravery, Clarity, Courage, Emotions

DIVIDENDS OF A DIFFICULT MIND

DIVIDENDS OF A DIFFICULT MIND

 

One might say I have been blessed with an overactive mind; one might say I have been cursed with an overactive mind;  one might say I simply have a mind—and it’s the only one I have this time around.

Gifts and challenges come in the same package.  My mind is complex and busy, maybe brilliant at times, and it would rarely give me a rest if I had not developed practices and strategies for managing it.

In EVERY DAY, his current  best-selling Novel, David Levithan (yes, a relation!), explores non-identification with the physical self by inviting us into the experience of a being who wakes up in a different body each day:  Whom would I be without this physical identity and identification?  This delightful and intriguing story shows that we could still exist without a body.  However, would a mind without identity be lost?  There are cases of a kind of amnesia where one cannot retain memory beyond the day one is in—talk about living in the present—however, it seems to be mostly disorienting and everything is about learning to cope and understand that day’s context.

For most of us, our minds are a place of personal identity.  The transcendent experience of a higher mind or consciousness, as Eckhart Tolle describes in THE POWER OF NOW, allows us to dis-identify with our quotidian self and open to  greater awareness.

We suddenly know that we have an alternative to listening to our mind as if it is speaking wisdom.  A new relationship has begun.

Most days, I am attempting peaceful co-existence with my ego mind.  Knowing that I have a higher mind helps, but the voices of the lower mind chatter and yell as if they are the masters of my universe.  Using tools to achieve  momentary quiet requires commitment.  We build muscle in the body through training and rigorous exercise.  We build psychic muscle in the same way.  Brain research shows that new pathways can supercede old habitual pathways, but only  through constant attention and repetition.  Eventually the new pathways become the route of first choice—changing perception, thereby changing  day to day experience.

As a teenager and a young man I was told that “You think too much.”  “You are too smart to be an actor.”  “Wow, your mind never stops.”  “Do you ever get a break from your thoughts?”

A partner once turned to me and with tearful compassion said “It must be exhausting to live in your head.”  It can be said that I have a difficult mind.

Recently, I realized some of the benefits that have come from working on my relationship to my ego mind.  I have to engage fully in whatever I am doing in order to attain momentary peace.  That quest has led me to challenging work that I love, and a tendency to gravitate toward intensity.

Years ago, I had a client in a group who was very deeply involved in S & M.  He also had a bit of narcolepsy, often falling asleep there and other inappropriate situations.  The members of the group stopped taking it personally after a while and we explored these two extremes.  He needed that intensity of pain in order to be snapped into the present.

S & M was his portal to being present.  He has since conquered his narcolepsy and is less engaged in extreme sex.

The other night, after especially intense and satisfying sex, I realized that I too had had a need for extreme sensations in order to be present.  My sex life has benefited. An easier mind might’ve taken a less adventurous path.  Creativity is harnessed for mindfulness. Also, I have been drawn to travel the world, dropping myself down in foreign lands where every thing is a stimulus.

I drive a convertible so the wind blows in my face.  I ride a Segway—thrilling to the dance of NYC traffic—knowing that If I am not present I am in danger.  Simply put,  the quest to tame my noisy mind, has enriched my life with variety and excitement.  Out of challenge, came gifts.   I  enjoy being something of a risk junkie.  Intensity is my primary portal to mindfulness.

 

 

Robert Levithan is a psychotherapist, workshop leader and writer, practicing in New York City. His book, THE NEW 60: Outliving Yourself and Reinventing a Future is available on AMAZON. He is currently working on a memoir and is a regular contributor to the HUFFINGTON POST. Previously, Robert has been a columnist for Oprah’s O AT HOME as The Design Shrink and for OUT.com. and TheAdvocate.com. He has appeared on CHARLIE ROSE and FRESH AIR and is cited in numerous books and articles as a n expert on living with illness and aging. He is also a specialist on Internalized Prejudice. Robert was born on the island of Manhattan and has degrees from The University of Pennsylvania, and Southwestern College of Santa Fe, NM.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/robertlevithan

Website: robertlevithan.com

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  • Robin Madsen

    I think what is key is that each of us finds our own strategy for being present, accounted for, and fully in the moment. That’ll keep the “chatter” down!

    • Bobby Levithan

      Absolutely, Robin. It is truly individual (and we can help each other along as we go…).

  • Bryan Castner

    Thank you, Robert, for the great topic. I have struggled with an “overactive” mind much of my life. When I was a kid, adults talked about me having an overactive imagination (if you can imagine such a thing – what does that mean?). As I grew older, I found myself changing jobs and careers more than most folks did – probably a manifestation of dissatisfaction and seeking, but it was perceived negatively by my family members.

    Regardless of where my mind happened to take me for the last nearly 70 years, here I am. No regrets, really. I’ve done everything I’ve pretty much set out to do (as it turns out), and I’m OK with most everything. But I do like what you have to say about working on your relationship with your ego mind. In recent years, I have learned to co-exist with my ego mind, as you have said. Can’t do it all the time, but I can do it. For me, staying focused on the present, which may involve something like meditation but more often involves intense activity, keeps my ego mind at bay. As I practice this technique, I seem to be getting a little bit better at it. It must be those new pathways.

    Great topic!

    • Bobby Levithan

      Hi, Bryan,

      It sounds like you are finding your way quite well. THis is definitely about practice…
      BEst, Robert