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3 Simple Thought Experiments to Reset Your Inner Compass

We really value our minds. We have fallen in love with our intellect and our intelligence. We are completely tied to our ability to evaluate past events and attempt to predict and control future ones. This is the whole premise behind modern science. This attempt to master the principle of cause and effect and gain a sense of complete control appears to have had the reverse effect—it now controls us.

My intention in writing this post is to help you shift your experience without needing anything in the external world to change. This might seem like a difficult thing to wrap your arms around and understand initially. We are going to look at how our mind and our awareness experiences the world. Maybe just for the next 10 minutes, we will view our minds as old school film projectors and the external world as the screen that the images are projected onto. What would it be like to consider the possibility that the way we use our minds and our awareness affects what we experience?

As Marcel Proust expressed, "The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Let’s dive into these 3 simple thought experiments and practice having a new set of eyes.

1. Empty Your Cup

Pretend that you had no memory whatsoever. You have no recollection of what happened 10 minutes ago, 10 days ago, or 10 years ago. You also have no remembrance of who you are. You forget your name, your hometown, your family of origin, and everything you believe yourself to be.

  • What would it be to experience life from this place?

  • What is possible from this place of having no personal history and no personal self?

This brings up the Zen concept of Shoshin or “beginner’s mind” that is so beautifully captured in the following Zen parable:

Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away. One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally, the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this teacup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

By letting go of the past, we inherently open ourselves up to greater possibility. Or more simply stated, Shunryu Suzuki noted, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”

2. The Future Does Not Exist

Similar to the first thought experiment, this one is about pretending we have no imagination and that the future does not exist. It is about dropping all expectations about what will occur next and allowing whatever happens to simply happen. Begin to observe and witness the very next moment unfolding and relinquish control.

  • What does it feel like to have no expectations and merely go along for the ride?

  • What is it like to let go of an “imaginary someday” and experience what is in front of you right now?

3. Don’t Forget Rule #6

In his book, The Art of Possibility, Benjamin Zander detailed a story of a powerful rule to live by, experiment with, and shake things up:

Two Prime ministers were sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws.

The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology.

When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of this Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.'” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”… “There aren’t any.”

  • What would it be like to walk through the entire day and attempt to find the humor in everything?

  • Imagine every interaction, every annoyance, every mistake, every unmet expectation has the opportunity to be seen in a different light and experienced in a lighter, less serious way.

Lose Your Mind, Find Your Self

You may have noticed by now that the focus of this post runs counter to traditional education. Education has largely been about acquiring more knowledge and information. I hope that this blog post today has served as an invitation and reminder to let go and empty your mind of all that does not serve you—all the beliefs, preconceived notions, ideas, and expectations. And as you continue to let go, you may find that when you lose your mind, you come home to your self.

Xavier Heditsian, MA, LPCC

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About Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today,

Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.

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