Filling the mind with old nutshells

Could it be that those repetitive self attacking thoughts in our mind are like old nutshells?

For example, I make a decision, or I create something new, or I find something I love. The kernel of this is in my heart, tasting sweet. But all the shells, which are the decisions I didn’t make, the mistakes on the way, the other paths or other loves that were possible, other people who might have done it differently or better, go straight to my mind and fill it.

That’s when I get thoughts like “What did I do that for?” “Why didn’t I do this other thing?” “How could I be so stupid? So and So did it so much better.” That sort of thing.

These are the thoughts that come up in what I call the “control mind.” It’s what feels like thoughts in the forehead. They’re very different from the thoughts that come from deeper down, from the wisdom mind, or the mind in the heart.

Because our “control minds” are what we are most easily most aware of, all this rubbish takes up my consciousness, and not the sweet kernel of what I have chosen to do, be, or love. This is particularly true when I am tired, or up in the night, or low.  All the shells come flooding in, and make me unhappy.

Does this ring a bell?

I am reminded of a saying I learned when I was a child in my Yeshivah, a school of Jewish education.  Probably this saying, which I never forgot, inspired this thought of mine over 50 years later.

We were told the story of a Rabbi who was considered a renegade, one whom people should turn away from. But nevertheless one man remained his student and publicly kept company with him.  Why? he was asked.

And he said “I found a nut. I threw away the shell. I ate the inside.”

I always picture him walking peacefully in  a garden with his teacher, plucking a nut, discarding the shell on the earth, then enjoying the kernel.

This is a lovely way to live, I think, focussing on the heart’s kernels, and not on the mind’s nutshells. But what to do with the shells?

I could gather them up in my mind and put them all on a compost heap.  These mistakes, alternate possibilities, comparisons, or whatever they are, could be recycled as learning material.  Perhaps something in there is useful next time I make a decision. Perhaps I could try a new way, learn from someone else, stay flexible longer.

In the meantime, I will live in my heart’s mind and enjoy a job well done, a song well sung, a decision finally made, the way it is now.  I will eat the kernel, and enjoy its sweetness.

The compost heap may yield something when it has had a chance to do what compost heaps do. I can wait peacefully for that.