Ever notice that when you stop and tune in to your thoughts, their tenor tends to match your mood? If you catch yourself thinking "Dina can do this better than me," or "God, look at how many wrinkles I'm getting," or going down the long, winding treacherous road of, "Avi never did meet my expectations," you'll notice you're probably not feeling very chipper. But if your thoughts are more along the lines of, "I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. What can I learn from this?" or, "What a beautiful Eucalyptus. Thank God for my eyes," or, "I did my best on that project today," you're probably feeling pretty good. It stands to reason, then, that if we could only keep our thoughts in the second category, we'd feel good more often. "But my thoughts just happen," you say. "I can't control them." Actually, you can. A few years ago, a niece sent me The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which has since become a bestseller. I'd never been able to read a book about meditation, so I thanked her and put it on the shelf. But then a good friend, whom I adore and respect, also praised the book and I decided to give it a try. As he tells it, Tolle was a depressed young man whose life was going nowhere when he had a revelation one morning, just after he awoke. The experience catapulted him out of his miserable life and into a new reality. A few years later, he wrote this book about what happened to him and what he has learned - and taught - since. One night, when I was in the middle of reading the book, I awoke to pee (a familiar routine to all you 50-somethings out there) and as I was sitting in the dark in the bathroom, I started, unawares, down an all-too-familiar train of thought . Within seconds, I was no longer in my bathroom, in my apartment, in Jerusalem in 2007. I had no awareness of the darkness all around me, my body or the toilet seat. Reality went on automatic pilot as my thoughts carried me straight into a worry binge. I must have been there for some time before I suddenly caught myself and realized what was happening. There I was, 20 years in the future, thinking about one of my kids. Where would he be? Was his life working out? Was he being productive? Most important, was he happy? Tolle's book taught me that my mind has a mind of its own. If you observe long enough, you can detect the patterns of thought your mind prefers - or at least where it tends to go when it's untethered from the hooks that bind it to the present moment like working or cooking or talking to a friend - any task that requires concentration. So when I suddenly found myself in the middle of full-blown worry, I wasn't surprised. But Tolle (and Thich Nhat Hanh before him) had given me a tool: As soon as I identified my thought and realized where my mind had shanghaied me, its unwilling and unwitting passenger, I could say in a friendly tone, "Oh, yeah, my mind likes to worry. There it goes again," and lead it, like a stray child, to a more productive place. In Tolle's view and in that of countless other spiritual teachers, that place is right here, right now. Not in the past with regrets or blame or in the future with fears or tension but here and now, in the dark bathroom, peeing. If we identify with our mind, Tolle writes, we are enslaved to it. If we separate a bit, and observe it, we realize that we are not only our minds, rather we have a consciousness that can watch the mind, can direct it rather than be directed by it. Elizabeth Gilbert says it better than I can in another bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia: "Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' - the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. This in itself is not necessarily a problem; the problem is the emotional attachment that goes along with the thinking. "Happy thoughts make me happy, but - whoop! - how quickly I swing again into obsessive worry, blowing the mood; and then it's the remembrance of an angry moment and I start to get hot and pissed off all over again; and then my mind decides it might be a good time to start feeling sorry for itself, and loneliness follows promptly. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions." Most meditation teachers instruct us to bring our minds into the present moment by focusing on our breathing. I prefer paying attention to my ears. That way, I can hear birdsong or the gentle tinkling of our wind chimes instead of just my boring, old breath. The instant I became aware of my worried thoughts and decided to bring myself and my errant mind back into the moment, my stomach relaxed and my mind cleared. I could have delved further into the moment and reflected on the physiological miracle in which I was engaged or the wonders of modern plumbing or appreciated the fact that I had a solid roof over my head and knew where my next meal was coming from. Instead, I climbed back into bed and fell instantly asleep.

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