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September 24, 2018

Thoughts become actions

I spent last week in Diani with an interesting group of women who are in their 50s and single.  It was great.  I am not big on small talk and apparently neither are they so we quickly got into some very deep conversations about love, life, kids, men, business… the works.

For the last 21 days I have been trying my hand, or rather mind, at meditation with Oprah and Deepak.  If you are like most Kenyans, you might imagine that meditation is an attempt to empty your mind of all thought.  You might also have been told that an empty mind is the devil’s workshop.

  Well, after the last 21 days, what I can tell you for sure is that there is no such thing as an empty mind because our brains are forever thinking and producing thought. What meditation does teach you is to observe your thoughts, so that you quickly come to the conclusion that you are not your thoughts, and more importantly, that you can control your thoughts.

So anyway, there I was at the Coast, eating entirely too much and listening to these women talk about events in their lives. What struck me almost instantly is how quickly and almost flippantly we make decisions that affect the rest of our lives. From heartbreak, we can very easily decide, "I will never be that weak again" or "I will never feel this way again"; from job loss we can declare, "I will always work for myself"; or from a man who abandons us with his child, we might say "I will never rely on a man again".

If we sat down and wrote a paragraph or four about these choices, we would be fully cognizant of them.  We would be forced to examine their impact before we committed.  We would know that we had made such a choice and be able to let it go with relative ease.  However, all of us are unaware of these decisions when we are making them, and we make them because they make us feel safer in the world, if only at that moment.  The issue is that later, even when we are safer and have moved on, these choices continue to run our lives.

Our thoughts inform our feelings and consequently, our actions.  Picture this: a man with the unspoken declaration ‘I will always work for myself’ gets a great job offer. He would have to close his business or perhaps sell it in order to take this job. He doesn’t recognize that he is the one who decided that he cannot be employed so he goes through the motions of weighing pros and cons, and perhaps even finding evidence that employment does not suit him.  Eventually he turns the job down.  All this would be fine, if he knew that the declaration "I will always work for myself" was running his life and making him neglect opportunities.

So how can you see your blind spot?  Your declarations?  Those thoughts that dictate your feelings and then your actions? Your best bet is to ask an acquaintance.  Your close friends and family can see it too but they are probably careful around you because they want to preserve the relationship.  An acquaintance, if approached with care, can however tell you.  Ask, and tell the person that you are curious and that you will not treat them differently after they tell you.  You might get pissed off or defensive, but just listen and accept what you get.  In a few days you will be surprised at how much more sense your life’s journey will make.

The good news is, you made these choices, so you can make new ones.

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