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Labeling Thoughts and Experiences. Why it Hinders our Search for Happiness.

Life is like a long road trip with several stops. Life provides the ‘car’ for the journey, and we get into a new one periodically. Those cars have different labels—success, failure, disappointment, satisfaction, profit, loss, good and bad relationships. Life won’t allow us to see which one we are in until we are back on the road when it is too late to change, and we will have to wait until the next stop. On the journey through life, most people seek to ride in the cars labeled ‘success,’ ‘profit,’ ‘satisfaction,’ or ‘good relationships’ People assigned ' failures,’ ‘disappointments,’ ‘loss,’ or ‘bad relationships’ fight to get out of cars with those labels and dread the possibility of being stuck in there all through the journey through life. But just as we don’t know which car we are getting into at each stop along the long road trip through life, there is another surprise. Just before the final destination, life reveals that we have been riding in the same car all along. We were too busy to notice that only the labels had changed. The ‘car’ we ride in through life is the mind. Experiences come and go, but it is the same mind in which we enjoy or suffer experiences. Once we label something as ‘success,’ that label sticks forever, and we want only similar experiences. However, even ‘failure’ stays forever. The more we try to reject those experiences, the stickier they get. Rather than learn from our failures, we expend energy fighting those thoughts. In a lifetime, we encounter millions of experiences, and if we give each of them a label, imagine the conflict and confusion that grows in the mind. It becomes challenging to step aside and get a different perspective when we habitually identify with our experiences. It’s like sitting in a car and obsessing over every fiber of cloth on the car seat, forgetting the reason the car seat exists—to provide a comfortable ride. Similarly, the mind exists to give us a unique window to experience life. But we forget that the mind is just a window; instead, we make it our permanent home. Life will be a comfortable, satisfying, and rewarding journey, provided we are willing to let go of the labels we give our thoughts. Life does not care whether an individual succeeds or fails. It is more concerned about the big picture, not an individual’s subjective interpretation of life experiences–an uncomfortable truth that may be hard to swallow. Similarly, our perspective will change if we step away from the mind and watch our thoughts and experiences as if we are neutral observers. We will find that our subjective interpretations of thoughts are hindering our search for happiness. Just as an endless vacuum exists all around a tiny planet we call home, there is a vast expanse of joy that encircles the mind. We encounter that field of happiness through witnessing the mind and thoughts from a distance. True happiness does not come from being enslaved to thoughts and experiences reflecting what we consider joy. When we watch the mind as if an observer, it declutters the mind. This happens automatically, and we don’t have to use any force of will to push thoughts aside. The more we watch the mind without becoming involved with the contents of our thoughts, the emptier the mind becomes. The space left behind is not an empty void but one filled with a profound subjective experience of happiness that we cannot describe in words. Witnessing a sunset or a sunrise gives us a taste of this subjective state of bliss that exists within us all. Most people come away from experiencing a sunrise or sunset filled with peace, joy, and tranquility. The rising or setting sun does not give us any material wealth, but that experience stirs something within that is deeply comforting and satisfying. Words cannot express that feeling, but we know it exists. If we can look at the mind as if it is a rising or setting sun, we may be able to derive the same joy. For this to happen, we must drop the labels we give our thoughts and experiences. By Niranjan Shasradi

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