In Eastern philosophies, there is a notion that we all have a big mind and a small mind. A small mind is all the thoughts we have about our own reality. Big Mind connects us to the bigger picture of our time and place.
Now in reality all-our thoughts come from within one brain.
But the Small mind is the micro place: where we try to figure out the details. Like how to stay safe during COVID, how to home school, how not to kill our partner who now works at home. The small mind is attached to the details. It frets a lot.
Big Mind looks outward. It connects you to other people, to where you are in your community, to something more than just this minute in history.
The big mind has some perspective. A big mind can improvise. It’s an oceanic space where a small mind can stretch its arms out and think a bit.
Years ago, I got a glimpse of how Big Mind worked. See, when I lived on Amherst Island there was a big field across from my house divided by a trail that ran between the two fences. Every day our neighbours drove their four-wheelers up the laneway to check on their cows, pastured there. When it was too cold, or I was too lazy to go over to the south shore, I’d take my walk up their laneway.
In spring and fall, the wet mud would pool in the ATV treads of the tracks, so to access the field, I had to walk down the middle; on top of the mound of hard dirt. I’d teeter for about a quarter kilometre, the lane ended and opened up to a great big field.
As I walked up the trail, I thought this was like Small Mind. Teeter-tottering on a hard lump of clay my tiny brain was making the list of my daily neurosis: Then at end of the laneway, I’d see that huge field and surrender all my vexations to the bigger mind.
As I walked up that trail I obsessed about my kids, my career, my looks, money and if my marriage was over. The idea had begun circling the airport a few years after we arrived on the island but I didn’t take divorce lightly. After all, I had made a commitment to stay married for life. The biggest issue was I couldn’t imagine being able to support myself. On my own.
I was 48 years old, and though I was a hard worker and I was a strong woman. ( Cue: Helen Ready I am Woman. Hear Me Roar.)
But I was an artist who didn’t make a ton of money. Plus it’s common knowledge that women my age who leave marriages usually live on two-thirds less money than when they were married. The best thing I could imagine for my life would be in a basement apartment, sitting at a table with a lightbulb hanging over me, with someone interrogating me.
This is the math of the Small Mind. 2+2=zero for you.
Day after day after teetering up the trail, getting a soaker, I stood at the opening to that wide-open field and put my worries out to pasture.
As I walked around the big field I got good ideas too. Surrendering my worries to a big mind ( okay a field) didn’t mean I did nothing. But when I put my pain into a bigger container, I received intuitive thoughts on what I needed to do next. Like I needed to get right with my own money. I had stopped using credit cards. Stopped line of credit. I started using cash. If I was going to prosper I needed more focused time to deliver my projects on time. I negotiated a loan for my first car. I needed to take action to prepare.
The small mind wants things to grow overnight.
The Big mind grows things with slow and steady persistence.
These days there is no shortage of things to worry about. It’s like we have to triage what to freak out about!
COVID 19 has most of us in Ontario under a state of emergency. Once again we are scrambling to make it all work in our heads. Frankly, the small mind is exhausted by it all. Covid Fatigue!
We walk around looking out from our mask praying no one breaches our two-meter parameter. The small mind focuses on who or who isn’t wearing a mask. The small mind gets prickly by our freedoms being curtailed. And yes at first I was good. I could handle the big stuff- like losing a year’s work, and not getting hugs and having family’s health be a challenge but now my small mind is now getting ticked off at the small things.
This happens in a crisis. We are good at first, We rise up then we get agitated by small infractions.
It happened as well when my husband and I were splitting up I saw how my mind wanted to create a fight. If I could make him wrong then there would be a good reason to have left. But Big Mind kept whispering, ‘Keep your mind on a peaceful solution.
Little Mind wrote angry emails, but Big Mind said, “Save as draft” is your friend.’ In the end, we negotiated a settlement that was fair to both of us. I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I ended up having the cash to purchase the house and to stay above ground.
Big Mind is quieter.
The small mind has tantrums. It jumps up and down like a two-year-old.
Keeping the focus on the positive isn’t easy during a divorce. And it’s not easy during COVID. It requires acting as if you are a better person than you are. It’s taking the high road when the low road is more dramatic.
If you try to look at this current time from the bigger perspective it doesn’t mean you are not going to be overwhelmed at times. Even angry. You might need a good cry. Big Mind has room for it all – even those tears.
I swear, I flooded my field with so many tears the crops grew early that year!
Because as much as the small mind wants to, it can’t figure all of it out.
So perhaps we try to surrender our small thoughts to the bigger mind.
Because this will end and how we acted during this time is what will define us.
As for my divorce, it was a modern, conscious ‘uncoupling” but it hurt like hell. There was a deep grieving to admit that all our efforts, all the intentions, all our “hard work” ended this way. That my vow of “I will love you through sickness and health” ended as it did.
Two years after our divorce, David called me to ask me if I would drive him home from his colonoscopy appointment.
“I’d love to,” I said. I am the only one I know who finds being asked to drive someone to a colonoscopy appointment a compliment.
“Well, you were the first one I thought of.” I was there for his colonoscopy, we still picked out the kids’ Christmas and birthday gifts, I lent a hand when he had cancer.
When I walked that trail for two years, with a small mind thinking it had all the answers. Meanwhile, Big Mind was growing something new that small mind could not even imagine.
What areas of your life do you need to try to get a bigger perspective?
Just for today, can you put some of your worries about the future out to pasture?
Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you.