There’s no question the brain is implicated in all our subjective experience. But the notion that the only true explanation is a neurological one is limited. In fact we may learn far more about our subjective experience by investigating that experience itself through you guessed it … the practice of mindfulness.
B. Alan Wallace has taught Buddhist meditation and philosophy worldwide since 1976 and is a regular presenter at our conferences. He most recently spoke at Mind & Its Potential in October, focusing specifically on how to cultivate mental and emotional balance using this quality of mindfulness or attention.
His argument is that anyone who can control their attention can control their experience of reality. Unfortunately many of us can’t control our attention and so experience what Wallace calls ‘attention hyperactivity’ when the mind is like a runaway train and we’re at the mercy of our (often) negative thoughts. No wonder mental and emotional balance seems so elusive!
Wallace calls this state of mind Obsessive Compulsive Delusional Disorder (OCDD): obsessive because even when we want to be quiet, we can’t ‘because the mind is like a chatterbox’; compulsive because when thoughts arise ‘we are generally compulsively drawn into them’; and delusional because ‘we tend to take our thoughts seriously whatever we’re thinking.’
It’s an exhausting and stressful way to live and is no doubt why we’re drawn in our droves to practices like meditation (really just a method for honing our attention skills), which promise mastery of our wayward mental processes. Wallace explains what we need to do.
The first step is “relaxation, loosening up, releasing into the present moment. But that’s not enough. There must be some clarity there, vividness, high acuity and brightness of mind. So attending clearly and closely to whatever we wish to direct attention to, being totally attentive.”
Ideally this means being totally attentive to our own mind to the extent that when an impulse arises, we are self-aware enough to make the wisest choice in terms of what we do and say and even think next. Predictably the effect this has on all our relationships including the one we have with ourselves is radical.
Wallace says that something even more extraordinary happens when we practice this hyper attentiveness; we experience not only a profound sense of peace but also what can only be described as joy. “The Greeks had a term of this: eudemonia, genuine happiness, a sense of wellbeing that’s not stimulus driven”, in other words that’s not based on what we derive from the world but rather on what we bring to it.
Do you suffer from OCDD or can you control your attention? LINK to the original blog post.