The Two Simple Phrases That Will Change How You See The World
An effective technique for driving your mind and steering your thoughts.
Tealfeed Guest Blog
A Life-Changing Dream
By no means do I have life figured out.
Occasionally, I will lose my mind by getting too wrapped up in an issue or the maddening pace of life.
And there are times I find myself mentally wore out from obsessing over something so trivial, insignificant, or unchangeable that it isn’t worth my time thinking about…yet I still do.
However, I have developed a simple but profound technique for how to catch myself before I fall too deep into a hole of overthinking things. This technique involves saying two simple phrases that remind me of how to reign in my thoughts and bring my mind back to a more grounded center.
At the risk of scaring you off, these two phrases came to me as part of an intense and lucid dream I had during a difficult period in my life. My business partner and I were struggling to keep our business afloat during the Great Recession, a serious relationship turned sour, and then my brother died unexpectedly.
All of these events came crashing down on me hard, and they made me question what I was doing with my life.
While I could not find an effective strategy for how to deal with any of this pain in the waking world, a fountain of wisdom poured through me in the form of a dream during my sleeping life.
I am not suggesting my dream was some kind of prophecy, but merely my soul trying to give my mind some much-needed guidance and advice on how to “live” a better life, even in the toughest of times.
The Wisdom of Dreams
During this extraordinary dream, I recall feeling under pressure to keep all the balls I was juggling up in the air.
I felt exhausted by life’s template for success, and I was tired of having to run so damn hard just to survive.
But something in my dream was chasing me and keeping my mind off-center. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt scared about spending my life alone (even with people around me), and I was fearful of financial ruin, which meant I couldn’t take care of my family, employees or myself.
At the climax of the dream, I looked down at my left hand and saw the words “Let Go” tattooed along the top of part of my hand, where the bone leads to the thumb. And when I looked to my right hand, I saw another set of words tattooed along the bone leading to the right thumb that said: “Find Beauty.”
Where these four little words came from, I don’t know.
Up to that point, they had never come across my lips in that short, concise form. I don’t have any tattoos, and I am not a Zen Buddist, psychologist, self-help guru, or philosopher.
I am just an ordinary guy trying to make his way in the world.
These short phrases — Let Go and Find Beauty — were unlike me to say, yet I knew what they meant exactly and what I was supposed to do with them going forward.
“But why did my dream put these words on my hands?” I wondered as I drove to work the next day.
Stuck in Rush Hour
I live in L.A., and, as the stereotypical legend holds, I spend a lot of time alone in the car.
When I am at work, I don’t have much time to think about myself, but whenever I am in the car, I think a lot. I think about my day, my upcoming schedule and deadlines, the things I forgot to take care of, the things I need to add to my to-do list, and, of course, all of my hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations.
That’s a lot think about.
These intense and often unattended emotions, combined with the aggravations of playing bumper cars in L.A.’s rush hour traffic, create a perfect metaphor for the overwhelming feeling of being stuck in life.
Of getting nowhere fast, of being alone in my glass bubble around other solo drivers, who like me, live and drive “defensively” because we’re all worried some reckless maniac is going to hit us out of nowhere.
Driving to and from work can sometimes produce a noxious mixture of mental pollutants emitted by the stress of life…but it doesn’t have to be this way.
You can decide the kind of thoughts you want to inhale into your mind.
Driving in L.A. requires you to think and act like a race car driver. Whether it’s your personality or not, you have to be assertive, pushy, daring, and aggressive. You need to have short bursts of speed and damn good breaks. But most of all, you can’t afford to take your eyes off the road, or your hands off the steering wheel.
And that’s when I noticed it.
The placement of my hands on the steering wheel allowed me to see the top part of my hands that lead to the thumbs. This unique position is where I imagined those two visible tattoo phrases sitting at just the right angle, staring back at me while I drive my life towards work (ambition) or back to the home (safety).
When I come out of work after a long day, I usually haven’t thought much about my “self” during the day.
I have been too busy solving everyone else’s problems.
So the ride home is typically when and where all these issues of “self” come to the council chambers to have a hearing. And it doesn’t take long before I’m stuck in both a physical and mental traffic jam, and my mind is clutching and grasping ineffectively for resolutions it can’t find.
It is in those intense moments that it’s hard to catch myself, but then I glance at my left hand on the steering wheel, and remember to “Let Go.”
I remember to let go of whatever was worrying me, stressing me out or chasing my thoughts.
I remember to let go of that threatening idea or toxic fear I have been dragging around with me like a big black bag full of dark coal.
I remember to stop clutching for a “better” life that I believe can be in found by obtaining a better job, a new car or home, a more youthful body, or a fatter wallet.
And I remind myself to stop carrying around old pains, injustices, and hurts, like a dead corpse on public view.
All of these mental fixations impede my ability to enjoy life “as is.”
So when I am driving around my car—the think tank—and feel the weight of those issues slowing me down, I’ll happen to glance at my left hand on the steering wheel and visualize those words “let go.”
When I do that simple mental exercise, I can flush my mind of those destructive thoughts, which provides me with the feeling of being on an open road with no mental roadblocks or congestion.
Letting these things go isn’t the same as avoiding these issues.
I tag them.
But I don’t allow myself to dwell on them in a circular manner that never seems to resolve itself.
And I don’t let my thoughts drive me around in circles. Instead I drive them in the direction I think they should go.
Although we’re not always aware of it, our thoughts don’t like to be collared or tamed.
They want to run off the road and get into all kinds of unhealthy territory.
But if you lose control of your mind and allow your thoughts to go on unbridled, you can find your “self” in a ditch, obsessing over something small, that eventually turns into something big.
By letting these unhelpful thoughts go, it gives me an opportunity to think clearly. And it gives my “self” some free time to think about the other, more fulfilling directions to head in life.
While letting things go can do wonders for freeing your mental hard drive of worry, there is another side of our mind that plays a crucial role in allowing us to truly experience and enjoy life.
But this pursuit of enjoying life is something that most people don’t do nearly enough.
We tell ourselves we’ll enjoy life when we get that promotion, buy that new car or house, take that exotic vacation, close that deal, or go on a date with that person you’ve had your eye on for a long time.
But we can not afford to postpone enjoying life to a later date.
Why? Because you’ll end up missing your life in the process.
You need to train your mind to stay out of the ditch and learn how to enjoy life right now — as it is — and at whatever moment you happen to find your “self.”
And this where the right-hand tattoo comes into play.
Whenever I happen to catch a glance of my right hand on the steering wheel, I can’t help but visualize the tattooed words “Find Beauty” talking back to me.
This directive is not suggesting I find beauty when I get to my destination, or later in the day, or at the local shopping mall to purchase some material item.
This directive to “find beauty” means to find something beautiful right then and there, in that particular situation, no matter where I am at in my day.
The first morning after I had this dream, I was driving to work through a busy, congested and ugly corridor of the city. I had already let go of the trash overflowing the desktop of my mind — which was incredibly freeing— but how was I supposed to “Find Beauty” in the harsh context and soulless conditions of a busy roadway?
But I promised myself I would follow the instructions of the dream.
So I looked out the window of my car to “Find Beauty” and there it was before me.
A mother and her daughter had just gotten off the bus, and we’re walking down the sidewalk. The mother looked like she worked hard most days doing some kind of physical labor work. She didn’t look as if she got a lot of love or attention at work, but, at that moment, she was overwhelmed with all the love and attention she could absorb.
The daughter had one balloon in her hand (why I don’t know?) and was holding her mother’s hand as they walked. She was wearing a colorful little dress with white bows in her hair and a little extra skip in her step.
I could tell that this daughter loved her mother so much. She was so delighted to be with her and to talk with her about her upcoming day that, I presumed, involved the bouncing balloon.
I could feel the daughter’s profusion of love and adoration for her mom radiating out across multiple lanes of the lifeless asphalt and piercing the insulated bubble of my car, where it got tangled up with my far too adult level of seriousness.
The daughter didn’t care about what her mother’s status, income, or possessions were in life. All her daughter cared about was being close to her mom.
And nothing I had seen in a while could have been more beautiful or precious than that moment of a mother/daughter connection.
The tragedy of this moment is that I have driven down this same corridor and passed that same bus stop at least a thousand times over the many years of going to and from work. But because my mind was usually so preoccupied with thoughts of the past and consumed with worries about the future, I wasn’t able to see, much less enjoy that kind of moment.
And I wasn’t able to witness the beauty of life that was happening all around me.
Much to my surprise, I can now find beauty in every situation, predicament, circumstance, or area of life I am in at the time.
In fact, I have never encountered a situation where I couldn’t find something beautiful to see, even at the county landfill, a funeral, at the side of a hospital bed, at the end of a big heartbreak, the back loading docks of a warehouse, or the toughest of all scenarios, a Walmart parking lot.
There is beauty all around us.
We just can’t see it sometimes because we haven’t “Let Go” of the trash and worry that is clogging up our eyes and crowding the streets of our thinking.
We have also not yet trained our eyes, mind, and thoughts to “Find Beauty” in everything and every situation.
But once we learn how to grab control of the steering wheel of our mind, we can drive our thoughts wherever we want them to go.
And the more you practice this steering, the better behaved your mind will be.
Try It, You’ll Like It
I have been incorporating this mnemonic device of ‘letting go” and “finding beauty” for well over a decade now. And it has done wonders for helping me get out of the backseat of life and reclaim my role as the driver of my mind and the person in charge of steering my thoughts.
Steering my thoughts in the right direction is not something I have to force myself to do now or even think about consciously because the dream I had left such an indelible mark on my hands.
I see those two phrases all the time.
My dare to you is just to try this technique of imagining these two phrases—Let Go and Find Beauty—tattooed on your hands for a full day, if not a week.
I promise you’ll like what it does for clearing out the clutter in your mind and helping you to avoid the potholes of reckless thinking.
This article was originally published by Kevin kelley on medium.
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