The Missing Peace: Calming your restless mind
By William J Heran, PhD, LCSW
When I look back on my life and the lives of my clients, I am struck by the amount of time spent by us on thoughts, feelings and behaviors that represent problematic stories in our heads, and are distracting us from a fuller awareness of the current moment, which in most cases are not problematic on its own without a mind generated story. These mind distractions are a universal human occurrence, and they can be to a lesser or a greater degree the cause of much suffering and unhappiness in a person’s life and collectively within communities and societies throughout the world.
The mind can be very helpful for planning purposes, informative about sensory phenomenon, and when used well, it can assist with your orientation in the world without much suffering and worry. The mind is sort of like Siri on your Smartphone. She can give you directions to the movies, inform you about a particular business listing and remind you about an upcoming appointment. Siri can be very helpful in her role, but you would not want Siri to direct your life and dictate how you feel about yourself in any given moment.
In recent years, I’ve become more aware of my own restlessness and its causes. For me, this awareness did not come from a therapist’s couch, even though I see a therapist, or from a deeply spiritual awakening. It came from the more painful experiences of my life. Experiences in our lives when the “floor drops” such as: the ending of a long-term relationship, the death of a loved one, financial devastation, or the loss of a job can be terrifying, or perfect opportunities for greater awareness and disconfirmation of the story message from a restless mind. Henry David Thoreau once said, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
I became aware that nothing actually happened to me during these seemingly devastating moments. It was the “story” messages I received and believed, that fanned the flame of my suffering. It was only when I stopped the subscription to my restless mind’s messages and began to realize its content was untrue and based upon fear and the preservation of an old story message that was not promoting recovery from a current difficult life situation. I also had the realization that I was okay amidst the difficult life event. I was able to separate the stressor from my Self.
The restless mind inside the typical adult produces tens of thousands of thoughts per minute. The content and the negative influences of these thoughts to control your life, and how to develop practices and adapt to a different type of living is the topic of this podcast. I hope the cultivation of the practices mentioned in these pages will be helpful to you as it was for me, and provide you the increased awareness necessary to present and happy with yourself and your life!
The purpose of this podcast is to represent a blueprint of a way of living to decrease restlessness and personal suffering, while introducing personal practices that increase calm and well-being, while enhancing performance in your day to day life.
Much of my work is with professionals (e.g. pilots, physicians, dentists nurses), who are alcoholics and addicts in recovery. I see individuals with high degrees of anxiety, restlessness and life dissatisfaction, much of it exacerbated by their active addiction. The very familiar chaos-filled life of the addict is only an amplification of the circus that the vast majority of people find themselves at different times of their lives. Rumi, a Persian mystic in the 11th century was once quoted as saying, “why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” The trap we construct, and then complain about is precisely the topic of this book. Whether it is an addiction, a series of bad relationships, or any other self-defeating behaviors and conditions that leads towards unhappiness; there is a way out!
The theoretical underpinnings of this book are based on years of study and practice in contemplation, mindfulness, meditation and human behavior. Some of the key characters that influenced my thoughts are: Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, Tara Brach, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Richard Rohr, Eckhart Tolle, Besel Van der Kolk and the many mentors I’ve been so fortunate to have in my life. Some of the psychological theories I borrow from include: attachment, object relations, ego- and self-psychology.
I’ve incorporated an intentional practice instruction at the end of each session. These instructions are not meant to tell you how to proceed with the specific practice, instead they are guides for you to customize the practice for yourself and how it best manifests in your life. To incorporate the set of practices described in this podcast can assist the listener to decrease a restless mind and open to even greater awareness of Self and a potential calming presence in a day-to-day life of serenity.
I am hoping that both my continuing personal journey towards a calm mind and my twenty-five years of clinical experience with suffering individuals will be helpful to the listener in creating a more meaningful life without suffering and then passing the message on to others.