We rewire our brains by taking conscious control of the story we tell ourselves and the world about who we are, by shaping our centre of narrative gravity with our thoughtful virtues, rather than letting it be an unthinking slave to other’s vices. We take this conscious control by paying attention in the right way to the right things, by being aware of the building blocks of our stories – our internal and external language – by knowing ourselves, and our environments and the ongoing means by which they interact and influence each other.
Our relationship with money is shaped with our purchases, our words and our thoughts. There is no standing still. No chance to wait and deal with it when we’re more ready. Our brain doesn’t stop sucking in inputs from the world, and spinning them into a protective, predictive web of stories to conjure a ‘self’, to determine its place in the world, and how to navigate its way around. Amid this incessant dance between environment and response, we can choose to ascend towards real-life monetary enlightenment, or down into a cave of complexity and shadowy illusions.
This is a meditative process. A process of deconstructing unhelpful narrative experiences into sensory ones and subjective views into objective ones, before building back up a more conscious and enlightened whole. As the meditator translates their river of thoughts into the coming and going of bodily sensations, so must we see the stories that subconsciously determine who we are as mere transitory drafts, ready for refinement. You inescapably are a narrative; you can consciously choose to be its author.
Sitting in stillness like this allows us to see things as they truly are. When the body is relaxed and the mind comes to rest, we can see clearly. […] As long as we’re restless and the mind is unsettled, we won’t be able to see reality clearly. We’ll be like the lake on a windy day, its surface troubled, reflecting a distorted view of the sky. But as soon as we restore our stillness, we can look deeply and begin to see the truth.
To meditate is to look deeply and see the things that others cannot see, including the wrong views that lie at the base of our suffering. When we can break free from these wrong views, we can master the art of living happily in peace and freedom.
Rather than distinguishing between emotions and thoughts, Buddhism is more concerned with understanding which types of mental activity are conducive to one’s own and others’ well-being, and which are harmful, especially in the long run. This is actually quite consistent with what cognitive science tells us about the brain and emotion. Every region in the brain that has been identified with some aspect of emotion has also been identified with aspects of cognition.