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Breaking Down The Mental Walls

In the previous chapter, we talked about learning to think, which is the hallmark of independence for anyone desiring to live free. Through discussion and an example, we discovered that asking questions (not memorizing answers) is the best way to acquire a creative, free-thinking attitude toward life.

Regrettably, most people never learn to ask questions that fuel learning and enlightenment. This is not due to stupidity, but instead a circumstance of human nature and prevailing cultural environment.

To learn anything, you must open your mind to consider new possibilities that your existing knowledge hasn't shown you. This requires erasing existing prejudices, unlearning biases, and most importantly, removing ego from your thought processes to the greatest extent possible.

The ideal is to impartially observe your own thoughts and act as a teacher and trainer of your own mind. This is far from straightforward, as it is very challenging to attain the discipline required to "watch" yourself and guide your own thoughts. The process of learning to act as an observer inside yourself is a life-long journey that will never end.

However, there is a point where the proverbial light bulb clicks on and you begin to realize the powerful nature of this kind of thinking.

Imagine you're trying to excel at some sport or game. Perhaps you're trying to hit a golf ball down the fairway, improve your tennis serve, or sink three-point shots in basketball. Practise is crucial, but without a coach your development is limited. It's only once your coach has told you specifically what you're doing wrong that you're able to correct it.

But good coaching is only the beginning. Regardless of how much your coach lectures you, or even how much videotape you watch of yourself, your results can't improve until you exert conscious control over your actions. This is the critical end result the coaching process has begun: you start thinking about what you're doing wrong - as you're practising - and consciously try to correct it. That's the time when real change and improvement is made... not before.

Training your mind to think is very similar to training your body for a sport. However, the visualization process is much harder, because there's nothing to see on a tape. Nor can any coach truly know your mind as well as you know yourself. You must become your own coach and mentor.

To do so, you must understand what your mistakes are and how to record them for future learning experiences. Here's a way to conceptualize the process:

Everyone grows up in an environment that is, to one extent or another, highly structured. There are rules to be obeyed, customs to be honored, and conventions to be followed. Failure to comply with external forces stronger than yourself usually results in emotional pain (not getting what you want) or physical pain (corporal punishment of some kind). Pain is easily remembered, and the memory of past pain generates fear whenever you encounter a situation with the potential to cause future pain. Thus you are guided by your fear to avoid painful situations imposed by the rules.

What happens with most people is that they internalize that external rule system into their own minds. This creates mental barriers and blockages that are very difficult to breach, because certain thoughts become capable of generating fear. It's the mental fear that keeps people from thinking any further, because they associate this fear with emotional or physical pain.

And already we see an important distinction: the external world is largely physical, (with attendant physically painful threats) while the internal world of your mind is entirely energy (with no physical threats). An energy structure in your mind is not matter. It has no substance in the physical world until it is acted upon. We will return to this idea shortly.

A mental fear of physical consequences leads to a mindset whereby:

A: One tries to avoid mental pain at all costs (rendering one a mindless slave) or,
B: One tries to accumulate as much worldly power as possible to force changes upon the external system of rules (the essence of most "authority" figures in today's culture).

Neither situation leads to true freedom or happiness. The slave has no control over his or her destiny. Any satisfaction a slave feels is short-lived, for being unable to do what one wants will always result in frustration. All subsequent problems are blamed on external forces beyond the slave's control, which is technically true, except that the slave himself has nurtured the situation where he cannot change his own mental outlook.

And the authority figure? No individual is powerful enough to enforce or manipulate changes over everything that displeases him. There is no such thing as truly absolute power, although it may seem that way for relatively short periods of time. A desire to change all aspects of the external rule system will always leave that individual unhappy in the end - much like a drug addict who can never feel satisfied by his addiction.

And so the authority figure will ultimately finish life as frustrated as the slave. Neither are able solve their problems as they have not learned how to think.

The mindless rule-following slave and the intolerant rule-imposing authority figure have not learned this vital skill because they have been unable to overcome the fear of their own thoughts. They are locked in unhappy mental prisons with no escape and no future. How is this possible?

Astute readers will know that the only entity over which you have any significant control is yourself. For you to break down the mental walls controlling your perspective on life, you must give yourself permission to ask questions that might break your self-imposed rules. And you must recognize that asking these questions will be a somewhat uncomfortable process as you unbundle yourself from your rule-constricted cocoon and challenge the internal "authorities" holding sway in your own mind. You must bring yourself to understand that mistakes are not negative experiences, but instead growth experiences that teach you even more than your eventual successes.

You will never progress as a thinker unless you are willing to accept uncomfortable truths about the possible non-validity of your present opinions. You must actively coach yourself to think "outside of the box." In essence, you must begin are actively second-guessing your own thoughts and opinions in a positive (not destructive) way.

What will give you the confidence to try this new and daring path is the realization that there are no physical threats existing within your mind. Your mental structures are pure energy, after all, and cannot cause you any real pain unless you imagine it to be so.

The "pain" associated with this new thinking process is that (just like everyone else) you link your self-esteem and self-worth with your present belief system, no matter how illogical or ill-contrived it might be right now. By asking, "Why do I believe in this idea?" or "Why am I endorsing this point of view?" or "Why am I reacting so emotionally to this issue or problem?", you are challenging not only your ideas, but also your "status" in your own mind.

Thus your ego is a major barrier, since you will always define yourself as the sum of your ideas. But once you grasp that this new thinking will expand and improve your ideas (even if it spears some of your traditional "sacred cows" initially), you know you will be more knowledgeable and more self-assured than ever.

Your eventual reward will be an open and confident mind that is immune to fear because it is not afraid of the possibilities that free thought has to offer. And in the absence of fear, you will enjoy increased powers of perception, a high degree of self-confidence and self-trust, and true, lasting happiness.

Is this worth it? Only you can decide. But once you achieve that first crystal-clear insight into life that comes from monitoring your own personal thoughts and asking questions about your most deeply-held assumptions, you will probably never look back. Good luck!

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