“Oh no! Now I lose.”
“Now I lose too!”
These phrases used to come out of the blue from my kids and their friends when they were teenagers.
Being a perpetually positive person, I didn’t like hearing this talk of “losing” for no apparent reason. What was it all about?
Perhaps you know about this mind game, literally called “The Game.” It’s super simple. The object of The Game is to not think of The Game. As soon as you think of it, you lose. You also have to own up that you lost, of course, reminding others of The Game, forcing them to lose too.
For some reason, I couldn’t think up a positive version of this game at the time, like I did with “Punch Buggy, No Punch Back.” My version of that game was “Love Bug, Give Me a Hug.” The kids would humour me, I think, but they much preferred the punch version. For the most part, they would acquiesce with a tap rather than a punch. Momma had to be satisfied with that.
I hadn’t thought about The Game in years, until I was recently rereading Eckhart Tolle’s classic book, The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment.
In The Power of Now, Tolle teaches how staying focused on the present moment can relieve us from so much pain and suffering. Our life exists in the present moment—the now—while the circumstances of our life exist in our mind. Most of us allow thoughts about our circumstances to consume the present moment. We ruminate over the past or we worry about the future. Either way, we create pain by not living in the now. Through thoughts about the past or future, we create problems that are mind-made, and these can result in mental, emotional, and even physical pain.
How to live in the now is simple, yet profound, and requires a new habit of mind. This state of mind doesn’t have to be complicated. We don’t have to meditate for hours or become “enlightened.” We simply must “be” and let go of identifying with our mind-made self.
Of course, there are times when we need to set goals and get things done, but these activities should not be who we are. The purpose is the journey—the ever-present and constantly unfolding “now”—not the destination.
To access the now, we must learn to disidentify from the mind. Most people are consumed by the mind and its constant chatter of judgemental and destructive thoughts, leading to worry and anxiety. People generally go through life thinking that we are our mind, but Tolle says, this is a delusion. In reality, the mind is simply a tool to help us navigate life.
A first step in this disidentification process is to become the one observing our thoughts. This very act separates us from our mind. Through self-observation of thoughts, we become a nonjudgmental witness and become more present. To quote Tolle: “The moment you realize you are not present, you are present.”
When you observe your mind and notice that you are not present, the act of becoming the observer brings you back to the present moment. This releases you from being trapped in your mind and that is a step in the direction of living more in the now. The more moments of being the observer we can string together, the more often we live in the now and release ourselves from the bonds of worry and anxiety.
Several times a day, ask yourself, “What am I thinking now?” Cultivate a habit of watching the thinker in your mind. Over time, you will be able to separate “you” from your thoughts, and you’ll become more present.
The best way to know how successfully you are staying present is to notice the degree of peace you feel within. Feelings of peacefulness and stillness are clear signals that you are in the now, letting go of thoughts about the past and future worries and the judgements that go along with them.
The idea of noticing thoughts was what reminded me of The Game my kids had played. Instead of losing, observing the thoughts of the mind is actually a win. Becoming more present in the moment helps you access a higher level of consciousness, intelligence, creativity, peace, joy, and, ultimately, freedom.
So, perhaps when my kids and their friends were playing The Game, it wasn’t so bad after all. They were learning to observe the thoughts in their minds, and this practice will eventually lead them to more freedom.
It has for me.
I hope it helps you find more freedom too.
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