Frustration has become so common these days that we have become accustomed to expecting it from others. Before interacting with people, on some level we have already rehearsed the conversation and our responses in our minds. Very often we imagine these conversations as arguments, and pre-write the script of both sides of the argument. However, when we actually reach the point of the interactions, we realize that it was so smooth, and we wasted so much energy rehearsing a situation that did not even occur. Rehearsing the script once could be considered as planning, but rehearsing the same script over and over again is paranoia.
We often ask ourselves why are we frustrated? We usually respond to this by blaming an outside situation or person. Even though on a deeper level we understand the reason for the frustration, we refuse to accept it. This is because we do not have control of our minds. We are running on autopilot mode – act and react. In addition, we do not accept the present moment, and this resistance causes frustration and stress. Moreover, we waste our energy dwelling in the past that we cannot change, or worrying about the future, which is always uncertain. We are also constantly comparing ourselves with others, and end up feeling jealous, worthless, and depressed. All of these feelings occur automatically, and make us feel as though we are destined to be this way. We feel as though we have no freedom of choice because everything is happening automatically.
We have become prisoners of the mind, but we fail to realize this. We blame our imprisonment on our careers, finances, health, or relationships. If we do not enjoy our jobs, it feels like a prison and we want to break free. If we do not have enough finances, then living in a budget feels like a prison. If we are not healthy, our bodies feel like a prison, and if we do not get the love we expect from a spouse, then our relationships feel like prisons. Unfortunately, it does not end here; if we are drowning in feelings of jealousy for any reason, whom can we blame for this?
From our perspective, the grass seems greener on the other side, but is it really greener? Consider this true story - one day a monk visited a prison to give a talk, and was asked by the prisoners to stay a little longer to answer a few questions. The prisoners were interested to learn how the monk spends his day.
The first prisoner asked the monk “What time do you wake up in the morning?”
The monk replied, “We wake up at 4am”.
“That’s terrible, even in prison we don’t have to wake up at 4am.”
Another prisoner then asked him what do monks eat for breakfast. The monk said that they eat a bowl of porridge.
“That is such a boring breakfast, in prison we get milk, eggs, cheese, bread, cookies and much more”, said the prisoner.
Then the monk told them that after breakfast they do a lot of hard work such as construction and gardening, followed by meditation.
In a rebellious voice, one prisoner responded by saying “we don’t work so hard, if we are forced to work hard, we go on strike.”
The monk was then asked what they do in the evening, do they have a chance to play sports, play poker, or watch movies?
“No, we meditate”, responded the monk.
With a boring look on his face, a prisoner asked the last question, “What time do you go to bed?”
The monk replied, “we go to sleep at 10pm, but we don’t have beds, we sleep on the floor”.
By now, the prisoners started to sympathize with the monk, and one prisoner finally developed the courage to tell the monk “I’m sorry that you are living in such terrible conditions, you are welcome to stay in the prison with us if you wish”.
This story is a wonderful example of how we think. The prisoners initially thought that the monk was living a wonderful life, but after they learnt about his day, they realized that they are better off in prison. However, even though the life of the monk seemed more boring, he was happy, simply because of his choice to live in that manner, and his choice was reflected as happiness in his attitude. No matter how many luxuries the prisoners had, they were unhappy because they were forced to live in prison. If the prisoners simply accepted the situation, changed their perspective and attitude, their life in the prison would be more harmonious.
When we encounter an unfavorable situation, we can simply remind ourselves that life can always be worse. If we do not like our jobs, we can remind ourselves of all the people who are unemployed and would kill to have our jobs. If we are frustrated with our relationships, consider the loneliness of someone who may have lost a parent, spouse, or child. If we are depressed about our weight or beauty, we can remind ourselves of the cancer patients who are losing weight and losing their hair. If we are tired of all the chores, imagine all the disabled people who are craving to be able to walk, drive, cook, hear, and see. Gratitude is a powerful transforming force, and if a situation can get worse, it can also get better. So maintaining a positive mindset will make what we define as “struggle” much easier. However, a positive mindset does not only mean expecting a positive outcome, it truly means defining every outcome as positive. And this becomes incredibly easy when we focus on gratitude.
No situation that occurs in life is pre-labeled as positive or negative. It is completely our choice as to how we define it. Similarly, we do not know the journey of another soul, so judging their situations, as positive or negative is also inaccurate. We may define a health condition of someone else as negative, but we do not understand the amount of soul realization that the person has achieved through the struggles. Wise individuals will always acknowledge the positive outcomes of their situations, which others define as negative.
We can free ourselves from the prison of the mind by living in the present moment. This will give us peace of mind and happiness, as we will no longer be attached to the past or the future. This offers us a wonderful opportunity to consciously make choices and accept full responsibility for the outcomes.
Here are 5 simple tips to free ourselves from the prison of the mind:
1. Accept the present situation as it is, without resistance.
2. We may not have control of our situation, but we have full control of our attitude.
3. Jealousy is immature. We do not know the struggles that the others have gone through to get where they are, nor do we know the future outcomes of their “good luck”.
4. Switch off autopilot mode and live mindfully.
5. Do not dwell in the past or worry about the future. Forget about the past that cannot be changed, and focus on the present that will affect the future.
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. And have faith in what will be.” – Sonia Ricotti