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Who’s In Charge Of Your Mind? (Only 1 way to know)

The person in control of your mind, controls your experiences.

The question is: who is in control?

I walked confidently to a session across campus. It was a nice sunny day with a slight chill in January 2015 within the borders of the nerd nation.

Just like any other Stanford student:

My day had been packed.
My calendar was stacked.
I completed task after task.

As I walked into the first session of my wellness class, three long tables were arranged to form a U shape. The instructor, with his shiny black hair, smiled and signaled me to grab a seat. I saw a friend in a blue jacket. I sat by him.

I looked around, wondering when we’d get started.

“Alright. I believe everyone is here” the instructor said. “Let’s start with a simple exercise”

“Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Just pay attention to the breath going in and the breath going out. Let’s start with 1 minutes”

“Pssshhh…easy” I thought. This one is going to be a breeze.

I closed my eyes.
First breath in and out.
Then the second, and the third.

And then the thought: “is this what we’re going to be doing all day?”
“What can I learn from this?”
“When will we really start meditating?”
“I wonder how far we are into this?”
“Is anyone watching me? Who’s eyes are open?”
“Oh wait I’m supposed to be focusing on my breath”

“OK. Wooosh…One….two”

The timer went off.

I opened my eyes. And that was the moment I realized I was not in control of my mind.

I could only focus for three breaths at once.

Are you the CEO of your mind or just the lazy guard that keeps leaving an assigned post?

Who’s mind is it?

So much is going on in the world.

Turn the screen on and it yells “so much trouble in the world”

Rappers are beefing.
War and displacement in Gaza.
People are finding it hard to get jobs.
Corporations are trying to do more with less.
Another report with the growing salary of public CEOs.

Oh, what about AI?

It’s about to hit you with the crossover, take your job, make you useless, and it doesn’t even need your votes to win re-election.

A new era being ushered in.

Some are half-naked, running down the streets, yelling “End times. End times”

Doused in an ocean of information. It’s hard to tell what’s reality and make belief.

Perhaps, you can just close your eyes and shut it off. If you could get away from that addicting screen of yours.

But what’s there to shut off?

The truth is your outer world is just the reflection of your inner reality.

You can only experience the world through your body.

Using information theory, your consciousness is the sum total of information you consume.

That includes the distant sound of an ambulance passing by, the smell of fried food from the restaurant across the street, the gentle breeze gliding over your skin.

These are all sensory experiences that make up your mind.

The brain is a material thing in your cranium with billions of neurons making connections. Your mind, not so defined. It’s the flow of subjective experiences of connection, anger, love, joy etc.

The person in control of your mind, controls your experiences.

The problem is you might not be in charge as you think.

The one-way journey inward

The only way is to become more observant. A lot of us wax poetic about stocks, art, literature, technology, cultural practices, music, food, values but ask about how people feel on the inside – silence.

A lot of us do not spend time observing the flow of our internal experiences, thoughts and feelings. 

When you do, you become aware of yourself and find more meaning in life. Let’s look at the passage of time through 5 stages.

1. The world is driven by stories

Our world is shaped by storytellers.

The advantage we have as humans is our ability to create and believe fictional stories. These stories have allowed us to foster social cohesion and nurture large networks to pretty much dominate the world over any other species.

Stories are important.

Religions: filled with stories.
Nation-state: filled with stories.
Corporations: story story stoooory.

Even the currency you use to transact is a story we’ve told ourselves to agree on how we exchange value.

Stories help us coordinate.

Pay attention to the stories and invisible agreements that you have accepted because without knowing it, you are in some story.

2. Liberation don die

The latest story is the liberal story.

Brought to you by the good folks at Capitalism Records.

Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Napo.

You see, sometime in the 60s and 70s, there were massive shifts. A new technology had literally dropped and changed the world the decade before. The atomic bomb. Since then, the whole talk about world wars didn’t seem so interesting. We would annihilate one another.

It became a war of ideas. The two main ideas were capitalism and communism.

Let me get to the point, capitalism won.

Capitalism sells the liberal story:

“The customer is always right”
“Work hard and you will be rewarded”
“Pull yourself up by your gaddam bootstraps”
“You deserve everything in the world”
“Let self interest guide you as a rational agent”
“You have the freedom to choose”

But since 2008 and the financial crisis, inequality has been on the rise. It’s obvious this liberal story doesn’t work for everyone.

Globally, we are losing a cohesive story to cooperate, even though we are more connected than ever.

3. We are grasping for meaning (media overdose)

What happens when there is no strong story?

We fill the gap.

Humans love stories so much that they would create their own just to listen to a story. (I mean, just look at me. I’m writing this – getting high on my own supply).

But what happens when religion doesn’t have the hold of the people
How about when they don’t trust the corporations?
When people think governments want them to harvest their organs?

People start grasping for stories.

And the internet has liberated stories at a scale we haven’t seen in our lives.

One day it’s a conspiracy theory.
Next day it’s a new TikTok tip.
Another day, it’s: “did Kendrick really beat his wife?”
“Did someone say they saw Trump and Biden hanging out in Cancun together?”

Who knows what to believe.

And the deeper we get into the AI era, the harder it will be to separate reality from fiction.

Regardless, humans will search for meaning in the midst of the billion stories out there.

Here’s one story to focus on.

4. Meaning is to reduce suffering

I’ve been on a quest for meaning for some time.

Started when those bombs exploded in Ikeja but really ramped up as a young engineer in Austin, Texas. I found myself asking: 

“So is this it?”
“Work, sleep, work, sleep, chop on the weekday”
“4th, 5th, and 6th Street clubs on the weekends.” 

“There has to be more.” I thought. I read all different texts looking for absolute truth.

I found answers but had even more questions.

I’m not the only one. A lot of people are seeking out meaning. A recent reframe that has helped is looking at the other side of the coin. Instead of “how do I find the meaning of life?” change it to “how do I stop suffering?”

That is: stop my personal suffering and the suffering of others.

Meaning can just be another story but suffering is real.

The person that’s hungry.
The displaced children.
My mental pain trying to resolve it all.

That’s all suffering.

So when next you hear a politician, a business leader, or family member tell some fantastic story about loyalty to the nation, corporation, or tribe, ask “how is the hero in this story suffering?”

Can the corporation, state, or tribe suffer? No. But the people in it can.

Focus on reducing the suffering of people. That’s meaningful

Your story is within (Observe your inner reality)

Your outer reality is a reflection of your inner world.

Most of us drank the liberal kool-aid. I’m a rational person. I have the freedom to choose. Have you ever questioned where that freedom came from? Are you aware of the historical, political, and cultural influences that got you there?

Try observing your thought patterns.
Just be the observer of the thinking mind.

You’d soon realize that your thoughts appear from origins that you’re not even aware of.

So who’s really in control if you can’t even focus on your breath for more than 20 seconds before you become distracted.

To begin, you have to observe the workings of your own mind. Reduce your suffering, then that of others.

Take time to yourself.

Write, pray, meditate.
Play sports.

The outside world does not have the answers, what you’re seeking is most likely within.

Yours truly,

Who is Nifemi?

Hey I’m Nifemi of NapoRepublic

I help busy people fit in a creative practice to bring to bring order to their reality and help them live a more meaningful life through writing and reflection.

Sculpt your story

Know thyself, build a second brain, and unleash your creativity with writing. All in one journaling, note-taking, and dots-connection method that fits into your busy life.