Understanding Life Through Understanding the Mind

This past Saturday, I received a request for an Uber ride from a grandmother who wanted to coordinate me picking up her teenage granddaughter from the convention center. Despite the granddaughters dying cell phone, we connected with ease, and without a hitch, we were on our way toward a destination in the south hills.

Traffic was a bit thick on account of the convention, so it only took until the end of 10th street for the conversation to go deep.

In that 100 yards I learned that this young girl's parents both passed away as a result of drug addiction. Neither of her separated grandparents had enough room to take both her and her brother in, so the siblings now live separated from one another. She admits that she has anger issues, and freely shares stories of being raped, her own drug use, and a recent stroke she suffered as a result. The story was/is heartbreaking.

Our exchange led to the question of whether or not she felt like life was worth living. She responded that she doesn't care if she lives, only stays alive for her brother, and how it's all on account of her not understanding life. She then asked me if I understood, if I had life figured out...

It felt new, yet I felt confident, in being able to say "yes."

I explained to her that understanding how the mind work is the key to understanding our own life. I shared how if we watch our thoughts carefully like a scientist in a laboratory, we come to understand how and why we come to feel and act the way we do. I explained how through this process we learn which thoughts are helpful, and which are unhelpful. She listened attentively, and responded enthusiastically, expressing that it made sense to her.

With only a few minutes left in the trip, I illustrated the point by using her relationship with her grandmother as an example. She then conceded that the authority her grandmother imposes on her, that she despises so much, comes from her grandmother's fear of losing her. And by the time the trip ended, instead of planning to intentionally come home after curfew just to spite her grandmother, she now expressed that she was considering coming home when she was expected.

Who knows how this story will go from here. And who knows how many similar or more troubling stories like these could be told each and every day. What we do know is the process of meditation familiarizes ourselves with the nature of our own mind, so that we can better understand how we shape the life we live, and how to grow compassion for the lives of others.