When you want to get started on something new, something radically different; your self usually butts in with some excuses as to why you can’t or shouldn’t do it. In meditation we try to sit quietly and just watch the behaviour of this self or the thinker as you’ll sometimes hear it referred to. If this is your first visit to the site, please don’t leave yet, I’m not mad, no really…come back! The self or the thinker is a common reference point in Buddhist teachings and is referred to in meditation practice frequently. I’ll explain another time but for now, just humour me ;-).
The thinker turns up most frequently as an inner voice telling you not to do weird stuff. That’s stuff you don’t usually do. Buddhists call it the self, Steven Pressfield calls it the resistance, some people call it the monkey mind, some say the lizard brain or simply…procrastination; but whatever you call it, you should be aware that it will turn up in a different disguise every time you set out to change something in your life. If you recognised it, then you wouldn’t fall for it…so it will turn up dressed differently every time.
When it comes to doing new activities, for me, the self most frequently turns up as tools I can’t do without. In this way it hits me with a double whammy of negativity. First, I can’t get started because I don’t have all of the resources I need and then I get hit in the pocket as I have to buy special equipment, tools or resources of some kind to get started.
Other times it will convince me I need to do something else first and this can turn into a sequence of events that can delay getting started on the new, interesting thing indefinitely.
When you want to try something new, just Kitchen table it.
A few years ago, I started attending a book-binding class. Now, if you Google “book-binding supplies”. you will see that it could be very easy to not do any book binding, because there is a plethora of stuff to know and stuff to buy and stuff to do before you ever bind a book. Fortunately my teacher is a real expert and is highly skilled in just getting jobs done. To that end he taught me to do book binding the kitchen table way. He showed me the basic foundation techniques and taught me how to get good at them just using every day tools that most people have at home. In other words he showed me a way to make beautiful hand made books…at the kitchen table. He also showed me the various techniques and skills needed to restore old books, again, at the kitchen table.
So, if you want to become a writer for example, just find a moment to sit down and scribble out your first ideas using the first pen and piece of paper that comes to hand in the location you’re in right now. The thinker in you will tell you that you need to learn to write in a particular way, maybe take a lengthy and expensive creative writing course, save up for a Macbook Air, spend £3 on a coffee every time you want to write so you can sit in Starbucks with your Mac proudly displayed and of course get yourself down there before anything can start. Maybe you need a writing den or a new office built in your garden. Maybe you’re inspired by Hemingway and need to get yourself some Palomino pencils and a Moleskine notebook and sit in a cafe in the Latin Quarter in Paris before you get going. All of these thoughts are procrastination dressed up as real issues by your thinker self. The self is just a collection of thoughts, experiences, traits, prejudices and negative self talk that you’ve created subconsciously over the years to stop you trying stuff you might fail at…and guess what…every time you give in to it…you fail anyway. So, get your arse planked at the kitchen table (that’s Scottish for “sit down in the food preparation area”) and just start doing what you want to do today, using whatever you have to hand.
Good BBC Radio program here that discusses the creation of the self. It seems it’s all created in our younger days!