Be in control of the mind?

I just wish I could be in control of my mind when I die.

– Ann McNeil in The Roaring Silence, about 13 minutes in

I am not sure exactly what she means by it, but here are some things that come up for me.

When I find myself as capacity for my world, all my experiences happen within and as what I am. It’s all revealed as the play of life, or the play of the divine. To me, that’s the most important, and there isn’t really any “control” here.

At a more human level, we can tame the mind. We can train the mind in stable attention. We can shift how we relate to others, ourselves, and all of life. We can train ourselves to notice what we are, and for what we are to notice itself.

The glib response is that we cannot control anything and there is no one here to control anything. Although that has some truth to it, it’s not nearly the whole picture. In real life, there is a lot we can do to train the mind – to notice its true nature, to have more stable attention, to relate to experiences with kindness, and so on. I assume that’s what she referred to when she said: “in control of my mind”.

To me, it’s not really “control”. It’s more that we have trained our mind to work in different patterns.

Or that life has trained itself, locally and as this mind, to work in different patterns.

Relax, nothing is under control

Relax, nothing is under control.

– unknown origin (to me)

A lot of our stress comes from wanting or trying to be in control of what we are not in control of.

In a conventional sense, we are in control of how we relate to a situation. We can do what we can to deal with it the best we can. But we are not in control over the situation itself, or other people, or the world.

The quote reminds us of this. I can take care of what I am in control of and do the best I can there. And reminding myself that I am not in control of the rest allows me to sit back a bit and relax.

I do my job, see what happens, and then I can respond to that if I need to.

I don’t know what will happen, but I can trust that I can deal with it as best I can when it does.

That’s really all that’s needed in daily life.

And yet, if we are drawn to it, we can look a little closer.

We may find that we are not in control of anything. An impulse comes up in me to act, but I am not in control of that impulse coming up or not. Nothing that happens in this human self is under “my control”. It lives its own life.

And that may show me something else. If what happens lives its own life, is there really any “I” here that has or has not control?

North Korea and the need for control

In watching a short BBC story about North Korea (Surprising images from inside North Korea), I was reminded of the need for control – and how it looks very similar in North Korea (and similar places) and in ourselves and our own lives.

North Korea is a country run by fear and they feel a need to control their citizens and anyone visiting. As the photographer in the video says, he could only visit approved locations, he had to stay in special hotels for foreigners (sometimes as the only guest), his “guides” were in the rooms next to his and emerged as soon as he opened his door, and so on.

In other words, North Korea is behaving as a terrified person. Everything needs to be controlled, often harshly. And if it’s not, there is the fear (I assume) that everything will fall apart. (That may be true. The totalitarian regime may well fall apart giving space for something else to emerge – perhaps a South Korean style modern democracy.)

Most of us have probably met people who seem a bit like this. Who tightly try to control a situation. Who seems terrified of things going “out of control” in themselves or their life.

And, if we are honest, we can probably find it in ourselves.

When am I acting like North Korea? Can I find examples of…. A time when I felt I needed to control a situation? When I desperately wanted to present a certain image of myself while keeping less savory parts hidden? When I felt a strong need to maintain a certain image? Or to maintain things the way they are? Or to avoid certain experiences I was terrified by?

In a sense, that’s the gift of North Korea. It shows us how a tightly controlled country – run by fear and through fear – looks. And, if we allow, North Korea can be a mirror for ourselves. When am I like North Korea?

What do I fear would happen if I am not like that? If I am more authentic and real and allow others to see me as I am (in all the humanness)? If I allow situations to unfold as they do with less of an attempt at tight control? How would it be to try it?

Some additional thoughts:

Why is North Korea the way it is? Of course, there are clear historical reasons (the war and connections with China etc.). Mainly, the leaders are terrified of giving the people are more free rein because it would – almost certainly – be the end of the current regime. There is a lack of trust that it would be OK or perhaps better than it is currently. Again, that fear may be justified since the few who benefit from the current regime most likely would benefit far less from a more liberal society and a democracy.

Again, that’s similar to us. We may fear that without a tight control – or attempt at control – in some situations and with some parts of ourselves, things would go haywire. We may fear to lose respect or admiration, or the image of being a certain type of person, or some perceived advantage, or perceived control over someone else or a situation.

So in exploring this, we need to address the fear, and we need to gradually find trust in ourselves – what’s in us, and in life in general. Mainly, we need to learn to trust that we are OK as we are – warts and all.

Byron Katie: If you want real control, drop the illusion of control

Being present means living without control and always having your needs met. For people who are tired of the pain, nothing could be worse than trying to control what can’t be controlled. If you want real control, drop the illusion of control. Let life live you. It does anyway. You’re just telling the story about how it doesn’t, and that’s a story that can never be real. You didn’t make the rain or the sun or the moon. You have no control over your lungs or your heart or your vision or your breath. One minute you’re fine and healthy, the next minute you’re not. When you try to be safe, you live your life trying to be very, very careful, and you may wind up having no life at all. Everything is nourishment. I like to say, “Don’t be careful; you could hurt yourself.”

You can’t make people moral. People are what they are, and they’ll do what they do, with or without our laws. Remember the prohibition amendment? I hear that it was passed by well-intentioned, moral people, who just wanted to save the rest of us from the temptation of alcohol. Of course it failed, because sobriety can come only from the inside. You can’t force people to be sober or honest or kind. You can say “thou shalt not” till you’re blue in the face, and they’ll do it anyway.

The best way, the only effective way, is to serve as an example and not to impose your will.

Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

I agree with this, and also see how it can easily be misunderstood.

It’s doesn’t mean not working towards something in life. Or creating the conditions for a happy and healthy society and life. Or being assertive when that’s needed.

It doesn’t mean that anything needs to change. Apart from one thing, and that’s the idea that we can control life, or need to, or that life would be better if we could. 

So how do we arrive at this place of more clarity around control? Inquiry is one approach, including Byron Katie’s The Work. What beliefs and ideas do I have about control, especially when I allow myself to be petty, childish, and uncensored? What do I find when I investigate these beliefs, and find what’s already more true for me? 

And what does she mean by finding real control through dropping the illusion of control? I am not sure, but for me it means that when I see through the illusion of having, or needing, or even wanting control, there is a resting in reality. I, as a separate being, don’t have control over life and never will. I don’t need it and never did. When I look, I see I don’t even really want it, and never did. And, in some ways, that’s control.

At the very least, it’s freedom from the lack of control – the instability and stress – I create for myself when I believe my ideas of needing, having, or wanting control. It’s a resting in and as what is. 

Love for the part that wants control

I keep seeing a part of me that wants control. It wants to control the process. It wants to know what will happen. It wants to understand, so it can regulate the process.

And behind it is fear, and also lack of trust in life, Spirit, and perhaps especially myself. This part doesn’t trust I won’t mess it up.

These feel like very young parts, and they are innocent and come from love, a somewhat confused love.

How is it to meet this fear, lack of trust, and wanting control, with love? (Metta, tonglen, ho’o, placing it in the heart flame etc.)

How is it to take this to inquiry?

How is it to feel the sensations that come up around this? Breathe, feel, give it over to the divine?

Doer and control

Identification with the idea of control, and as a doer, comes from a desire to protect the image of me. It’s from love and it is love.

What do I find when I look at these images more closely?

I find that there is (the appearance of) control in an ordinary and limited sense. I chose to take a sip of tea. I chose to write these words. I make plans for later this afternoon. There is some control here. I can chose to be a good steward of my own life, as Adya suggests.

And yet there is no control. I really don’t know what will happen the next minute or the next second, and even less tomorrow or next year. My future is, quite literally, imaginary. Another way I see there is no control is that everything has infinite causes. For anything that happens, I can find another cause, and then another. And that includes what seems the most personal, such as choices and perceptions and actions. The whole universe – in its extent and reaching back to it’s earliest beginning – is behind anything happening. The chain of causes reaches out to the widest extent and back to the earliest beginning. (At least, that’s how it appears in my world of images.) There is really no room for control in a personal sense, or a separate person who could have “control” in the way we sometimes think of it.

There is the thought of a doer, a me that does things. And that’s valid enough in an ordinary and conventional sense.

At the same time, I see that the doer is imaginary. It’s an image of a doer. Something happens and a thought says “I did that”. There is an image of something happening in the future, and a thought saying “I will do that”. There is an image of this body doing something now, and a thought saying “I am doing that”.

There is nothing wrong in any of this. Reality may be different than how it sometimes appears to me, and that’s fine. That too is from a desire of this mind to protect this imagined me. It comes from love, and it is love.

I see something else too. A thought may say there is identification here, and that’s another imagination. A thought may say there is identification here, and at the same time no identification, and find valid examples of both. They seem to both be here.

If I can imagine them – whether I imagine them in others or the past or future – are they not here now? Is it true they are not already here? And is it true they are, in my world, anything other than images? Anything other than imagination? Read More

God takes over

There is the hologram that you have been identified with that spins and spins…then there is reality beyond that…the two are mutually exclusive…you asked for Self Realization…God takes over…what is yours is yours..Surrender to the mystery….love,b

God takes over.

It’s, of course, how it always is. If all is God, then all is God’s will, all is God’s love. Even what a thought may label bad, wrong, undesirable, unloving, identification, all of that too is God’s will, God’s love, and God.

And yet, something is different when there is a conscious shift into seeing this, and surrendering to God.

Surrender to God. What does that mean?

For me, it means surrendering to what is. What in me opposes what is? What beliefs and contracted fears are there? What’s more true than these? How is it to live from what’s already more true for me?

It also means following my inner guidance, my heart. What in me opposes following what this guidance tells me now? What fears are there? What stories do I tell myself to confuse myself so I am less receptive to this guidance? What is it “I” want that seems opposed to what is, and this guidance? What’s the fears behind it? What’s more real and true than these fears?

And it means surrendering to love and truth. If I am completely honest with myself and others, what will happen? Being completely honest is another way of losing control. As long as I hold back, as long as I tell little lies, I can maintain the thought that I am in control. Being completely honest, and I lose that illusion. What am I afraid would happen if I am completely honest? What fears are there? What’s more true for me? How would it be to live from this honesty?

I did ask for it, as Barry points out. I sat in front of the altar in Bodh Gaia for days prayer for full awakening no matter what it would cost. (In my early/mid twenties, of course, in the grip of youthful folly, and perhaps also a deeper wisdom.) And now, when I realize more fully, and at an emotional level, that “I” am not in control and never was, it brings up a lot of fear in me. There is really a sense of giving up control and giving my life more fully over to God. I have no idea what will happen, and I also see that I never did even when I earlier told myself I did.

Nothing has really changed. It’s all already God’s will. I never knew what would happen or where life would take me. And yet, it’s good to meet those fears me. Welcome them. Thank them for protecting me. Ask them how they wish me to be with them. Ask them what their deepest longing is, and what would satisfy them forever. Ask them who they are (in form) and what they really are.

And there is a change here too. Where I before had some confidence that I could follow and often achieve my personal wishes and preferences, it’s not like that anymore. At least, it seems to not be that way anymore. As a friend of mine said, there is my will, and your will, and then there’s God’s will. There is a sense of surrendering my personal will and preferences to God’s will, and much in me opposes it while it at the same time really wants it. It brings up neediness and fears in me. What if I won’t get what I want? What if I won’t get to fill the hole in me the way I thought I would fill it? There may be other, and more deeply satisfying, ways of filling those holes. And I don’t know what will happen. It may happen the way my personality wishes, and it may not. I don’t know.

Struggling mind is defeated

Struggling mind is struggling with itself.

Identified mind struggles with itself, and that’s how it stays identified. It keeps the center of gravity in the middle of identifications.

It may work for a while. All sorts of practices may seem to give the intended results, at least sometimes.

Eventually, this strategy doesn’t work anymore, simply because it comes from identification and perpetuates identification.

So what to do? All that can be done is giving it all over to the divine. Giving it all over to love, to presence.

And here, it may be even more clear that it’s all out of control.

There is no control the way a thought may tell itself there is for comfort.

I may engage in a practice and there may be the appearance of control. A thought may say that “I” engage in meditation and this brings about a certain desired state. And yet, it’s all possible only because it’s supported by life. The intention to engage in meditation, the possibility to do so, the mind that meditates, it’s all possible only because it’s supported by life. And it is all life.  Read More


Here are some simple questions for exploring control:

(1). If I take a daily life example I seem to have control over, do I find I really have control over it?

I woke up and did a Skype session with my TW tutor this morning.

I had no control over waking up or not. (I could have died in my sleep, Overslept. Been in a coma.)

I had no control over remembering it. (It could have slipped my mind. I could have forgotten to check my calendar. My calendar could have dropped the entry, or I could have forgotten to put it in.)

I had no control over feeling up to doing it. (I could have felt sick.)

I had no control over me deciding to do it. (I could have decided I would rather do something else. I could have decided to reschedule.)

I had no control over the computer or Skype connection. (The computer could have died. The internet connection could have been down. Skype could have not worked.)

I had no control over the other person. (She could have forgotten it. She could have written down another time. She could have decided to do something else.)

When I say “no control” here, it can be read as “no absolute control”. It’s clear I don’t have absolute control over any of these things. And if I look a little closer, I may find there is no real control at all.

(2) . What’s the me or I that tries to be in control?

It’s the part of me that thinks it’s in control, that tries to be in control.

It’s the dynamics created when certain thoughts are taken as true:

It’s better to be in control. It’s possible to be in control.

I am in control. I can control.

It’s an image of a me, a doer, a controller.

(3). Where does the guidance for the control come from, the ideas of what’s good or helpful?

 When I brush my teeth, where does that impulse come from? I was told it’s good by my family, dentist, and culture. I just do what I am told.

When I did the tutoring session mentioned above, I did it because it’s part of the certification program, and a couple of friends recommended it. I also did it because it fits the model or idea of how we learn and get trained in our culture, and among humans in general.

I try to stay alive. I eat, breathe, sleep. Go to the doctor. All of that can be seen as coming from a biological survival instinct, and also what I have been told – often without words – by family, friends, culture.

(4) Taking it a little further, where does the impulse to do anything come from?

Why did I chose to sign up for tutoring? To schedule the session? To go on Skype at the time we agreed on? I really don’t know.

I can come up with a number of plausible stories, and if I am honest with myself, I see I really don’t know.

(5). What do I find when I investigate some of my thoughts about control?

I have control. It’s better to have control. I need to have control.

If I don’t have control, something terrible will happen.

What do I find when I (a) find a specific situation where I had one of these thoughts, and (b) investigate it from that situation?

 With any of these questions, I can look at them in a general way and that may be helpful to help my conscious view realign. And yet, if I want it to go deeper, if I want to really see what’s there, it may be more helpful to look very closely at very specific examples and situations. What’s really there? Read More

Speaking the truth, losing control

I listened to a talk by Adyashanti where he talked about speaking the truth, and losing control.

Of course, what’s really lost are some (imagined) means of control, and the illusion of control.

As long as I believe I need something from someone else (their love, approval, acceptance etc.), I will try to manipulate them. I try to be nice. I try to be the person I think they want me to be. I may tell half-truths. Through this, I get a sense of control. I imagine I am able to control the situation and the other person through appearing a certain way, behaving a certain way, saying certain things and leaving out the rest.

I monitor where I think the other is at, and say or do something – unconstrained by what’s true for me – to influence them to say or do what I want them to say or do. Not constrained by what’s true for me, I have a larger set of options in how to respond. I have more ways of influencing and manipulating the other person.

Most of these manipulations are what I tell myself are small white lies in what I say and do in everyday life, often – I tell myself – to avoid hurting someone or creating an awkward situation. And I notice that these too, are painful.

When I tell the truth, the ordinary human truth as it is for me in this situation, I lose this wider set of options. What’s left is simply what’s true for me here and now. It’s very simple, very honest, very real. I put it out there, and it’s up to the other person how he/she responds.

To explore my thoughts around this, it’s helpful to take one thought at a time (from a set of thoughts, a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet) in one particular situation, inquire into it, and see what I find.

Read More