The Prison of the Mind

When you feel life is restless, what would you do? Can you calm it down? How can you control the state of life?

Is your life happy or unhappy? How do we define the state of life? Who can decide it on earth? Sometimes we feel joy. At other times, we find it is hard.

While life is as it is, the state of life is what we feel, think, find, and believe so in ourselves. It’s all in our minds. As far as the state of life is concerned, we live and exist in our minds. I think, therefore, I am.

We think that we exist in our lives. Hence, we live in our minds. That means we believe that we exist in our minds. We can never get out of the prison of our minds.

Asking the state of life is like checking a half-filled glass of water as a classic example. Is it enough or not enough? The answer is up to you. It’s up to your mind. When you are positive, you can say it’s enough. If you are negative, you suffer, saying it’s not enough at all.

If that is the case, which should be the correct state of mind we are supposed to have? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic?

Either way, we are in the prison of our minds. Whether being positive or negative, whether being optimistic or pessimistic, we are deceiving ourselves. In our minds, the life we see tends to be the state of life, which is often far from life as it is.

We are like monkeys who are in the prison of the monkey minds. If they find a bag of peanuts there, they run after it desperately. Or, discovering a sack of bananas over there, they rush to grab it. If others get it, the monkeys get mad at them, shouting and screaming at them.

We are like these wild monkeys as far as our minds function in our lives. The only difference is that instead of their bananas and peanuts, we seek the following baits:

  • Success
  • Happiness
  • Knowledge

When we ponder the meaning of life, a series of role models we encounter tend to be these baits. They are like peanuts and bananas for monkeys. We rush to grab them. We compete, even kill one another over them. The amount of the baits decide the state of life. We scream like monkeys: It is enough, not enough, or unfair! You got mine! I got yours! Billionaires are with private jets, and scholars are with countless books. People are all from one entertainment to another, and another to consume all the baits.

All these baits control our lives, cultures, societies to drive our civilizations.

Sometimes we get tired of this “war of all against all” situation. But even with this realization, the tricky part is that the following things could be our baits once commercialized. We tend to chase after these peanuts and bananas like getting wiser, enlightened, slower lifestyles, and the like.

  • Wisdom
  • Enlightenment
  • Slow life

As long as we are in the prison of the mind, we can never get out of it. Moreover, as long as we are ourselves, we are inevitably in our monkey minds. We keep chasing after our special pieces of peanuts and bananas. Life is either happy or unhappy, depending on the extent of our special peanuts and bananas.

If we can never get out of our minds and stop being ourselves, one possible remedy is to tame our minds. But again, anything we seek would become after all our unique baits. The desire to tame and control our monkey minds keeps us in the war of all against all.

What should we do?

We have to admit humbly the fact that we are all monkeys. Monkeys can never tame their monkey minds. In the same way, we can never control our minds.

All efforts are within the mind. Monkey minds can’t tame themselves. Likewise, our minds can’t control themselves, either.

Once we humbly accept that we are all monkey-like mind-based creatures, realizing our minds’ inability, we could finally surrender our minds and ourselves. We don’t make any efforts in our minds. Even we don’t make any effort to be effortless as this attitude might be another bait we would get controlled.

Lao Tzu called it “wu wei” in Chinese or “mui” in Japanese, using the letters as 無為. It means “no action,” interpreted as “effortless action” or “letting go as is.” But then, this articulation itself might create another bait in chasing after who can be like Lao Tzu.

If our minds are full of desire achieving the state of “wu wei,” that’s far from what it means anymore.

What should we do?

The answer is we can’t do anything. Or, what we scarcely do is to accept the fact that we can’t do anything as long as we are ourselves. Let us realize that we are as helpless as wild monkeys with their monkey minds. We can’t do anything on our own. Even we can’t let go of things as they are, either. Even we can’t let God alone do everything. God alone can let Himself do as He is. That is life as it is.

Image by jplenio 

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