Train station of thoughts

Have you ever had this experience? You’re feeling tired?
Feeling like you’ve really worked hard
and this really compassionate voice arises in the mind?
I think I need a little rest. I’ve really put in a lot of effort.
This is really sloth and torpor, masquerading as compassion.
It sounds so compassionate.
So I’ve worked really hard. Let me just take a little rest.
We think that it’s compassion or doubt, masquerading as wisdom. 

Joseph Goldstein

So many trains of thought that masquerade as wisdom, that hinder our ability to think straight. 

Our minds are like Grand Central Stations. Or Union Station in LA! They are busy, busy places where trains are coming and going. Ideas and thoughts are arriving and departing on a regular and irregular basis. And sometimes we jump on the trains and sometimes we jump off the trains and sometimes the trains overwhelm us when we are tired and sometimes we are able to navigate seamlessly through the train traffic when we are present.

Scientists have determined our little three pounds of grey jelly processes 60-70,000 thoughts each day using 100 billion neurons that connect at more than 500 trillion points through synapses that travel 300 miles/hour. These are bullet trains that travel through these interconnected grey matter forming the basis of memories, thoughts, feelings and decisions.

According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive. Based on my limited math that’s 76% repetitive and negative. Our minds can be  so brutal, so judgmental, so deceptive.

To be honest it’s amazing we can even walk and chew gum.

There are so many trains trying to distract us from what’s important and what’s virtuous. There are five trains that really impede our presence, our tranquility, our mindfulness and our ability to be the best we can be. In the Buddhist teachings these are referred to as the “hindrances”. These illusory trains intend to deceive us and hinder us from doing our work, from being ourselves.

  1. Sensory pleasures
  2. Self-doubt
  3. Anger and ill-will
  4. Worry and restlessness
  5. Sloth and torpor

With our individual versions of ADHD, these trains can easily derail us. Sloth and torpor is a common train—the Tired Train– that beckons to us under false pretenses. It arrives during our exercise routines, when we are reading, and even when we are being very productive. It wants us to stop and rest. It feeds the mind with stories of weakness and exhaustion.

Runners know this devil train that tries to get you to quit. And the only way to overcome it is to keep running.

The Tired Train hinders you from accessing your real energy by playing tricks on your mind.

Of course, there are times when we are really tired and need rest. But more often than not the Tired Train shows up to take us to Quitsville station. And we must resist and power through.

Sloth and torpor are forces in the mind that drain vitality and limit effort. Sloth manifests as a physical absence of vitality. The body may feel heavy, lethargic, weary, or weak. Torpor is a mental lack of energy. The mind may be dull, cloudy, or weary. It easily drifts in thought. Being caught in sloth or torpor can resemble slogging through deep mud. When this hindrance is strong, there is not even enough mindfulness to know we’ve fallen in. The presence of sloth and torpor does not mean that energy is not available. It means we are not accessing it. Insight Meditation Center

Exercise, reading, writing and complex work require endurance to get to the energy side of the equation. Like the runner who literally finds a second wind after enduring the sloth and torpor mind game.

The Tired Train is just one of many trains we ride over and over. We can feel it revving and running its usual course. Taking the deeply grooved rails that have been there for so long. The way you react to a loved one who pushes your buttons. What happens when someone cuts you off on the highway. When you are anticipating a rude, insensitive comment from a neanderthal. When you get up to give a public presentation. Emotions come on cue and words you regret get loaded on to the cars. It is a runaway train. A train reaction.

I have been on the platform, feel and see the train I don’t want, go aboard, enter the engine car, thinking I will stop this train and instead of pulling the brakes, I start shoveling coal into the furnace and we crash and burn.

Over time with practice I can avoid certain trains, especially the Tired Train. It requires my full presence. To slow down and to breathe. To take a moment to notice my feelings and see the train– to allow reason and rationality to avoid watching the train wreck again. To let the train pass. To break the train schedule.

I believe meditation and self-awareness have helped me immensely to observe my negative thoughts and let them speed by. To be less distracted. To be more inclined to pausing and reflection. To rise above the train. To be more curious. To presume innocence. To waste less energy on these preventable train wrecks.

This is not just scheduling or choosing positive happy trains in our busy minds, but avoiding the negative ones. The negativity and repetition are the dominant part of our train networks. Trains that hinder what we want to do and who we strive to be are running continuously.

You deserve a rest from these trains. Practice seeing and noticing these trains. Let them pass to find peace and productivity.

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