Mind

The human mind, the brain ego, is a curious thing. It never stops. It is capable of amazing ingenuity to push the world in new directions (Shakespeare, Einstein, Galileo, da Vinci, Mozart). Or it can languish in a dark place of circular logic, negative thoughts, and imaginary dragons—until the human it’s attached to is convinced of defeat and gives up.

Some people are blessed with a Rolls Royce mind that just gets things: processing data and weighing options without emotional attachment to come to the best conclusion, given the circumstances. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes is a metaphor for that type of superhuman. Then there’s the rest of us, muddling along, overwhelmed with all that brain static.

Exercises to calm the mind are helpful. I’ve tried them all. Self-help books. Yoga. Meditation. Journaling. Spirituality. Philosophy. Altered states. Sleep (yay sleep!). Talk therapy (it’s fun to pay to drive people crazy, haha!). Any of these can work, with persistence and openness and patience. But you can’t really change deeply until your heart tells you it’s time.

A breakthrough for me came a few years back when a friend told me to personify that ego voice inside me, that organizer that tells me what I should/n’t do, could/n’t do, would/n’t do. Did you know that the English language specializes in these conditional tenses? When I asked a Parisian how to translate “I would do this” to French, he huffed that the French language had no such thing. English, he added, was la langue du diable.

Anyway, I was asked to personify this creature, this inner voice who always brings up conditions and limitations and defeats. I was asked to give it a name. I called it Igor. Yeah, the mad scientist’s assistant, not so original. Then they told me to shoe Igor away. Poor Igor, I thought.

The first chapter of Untethered Soul (Michael A. Singer) does a nice job of helping us understand our inner voice, what Singer calls the inner roommate. If Igor were my roommate, I wouldn’t tolerate his droning on for more than three minutes. But I can’t shoe Igor away, we are too attached.

I’ve even come to appreciate Igor. He can get annoying, but he’s the one who tells me to stop for traffic lights, pay my taxes, get my deadlines done, stay out of trouble. I need him to navigate the complicated human world, to keep me safe, to edit my words and thoughts. So I’ve accepted Igor as my inseparable roommate. I just try to make him relax when I don’t need him. I love you Igor, now go take a nap.