Escaping the Prisons of Our Mind

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Escaping the Prisons of Our Mind

Mark Twain once said, “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life.. and some of them actually happened.”

We have incredible minds and imaginations capable of creating amazing things.. But sometimes our imagination works against us.

Over our lives, “things” happen… difficult childhoods, trauma, death, illness, loss, abuse, disappointments… And in order to survive, we escape into our minds.. It is an incredible human coping mechanism. It’s how we survive things that we cannot digest, explain or fix, and still get on with our lives without falling apart.

But what does this inner landscape look like by the time we are adults? Sure, there might be sunshiney spots, but many of us struggle with long-lasting depression, anxiety, phobias, panic, loneliness, grief, etc… Why are these such a struggle today? Why can’t we escape?

We are locked in our own prison

I just watched a documentary, “The Sound of the Carceri“, where Yo-Yo Ma plays Bach’s second suite as if he was in the etchings of the 18th century architect Givoanni Battista Piranesis. The etchings are called “Carceri d’invenzione” or “Prisons of the Imagination“.

As I watched the movie, I have to say, I didn’t like it.

As Yo-Yo Ma played his cello in the replication of these prisons, I kept thinking about all of the horrors that must have happened there, the cruelty, the sadness…

Honestly, I just wanted to leave the theatre.

But then I started recognizing what I was seeing.. This is what we do to ourselves!! 

Yo-Yo Ma playing “in the carceri”

piranesi carceri1) Chains on the Walls:

We can feel so stuck sometimes. We can feel completely unable to move, to make a different choice. We feel lashed in one spot, tied to a wall, unable to see the sun… But it isn’t true. It is our imagination.. But our fears keep us chained.. and we sit.

And often it’s more than that, we actually abuse ourselves. our self-talk is incredibly cruel. We beat ourselves with all kinds of judgement about everything that we should have done or should have done differently.. And then we decide that we are unworthy, unlovable… and forgettable… Sigh…

2) Staircases to Hidden Places:

Where do you go in your mind on a bad day? How about up a staircase to hide?

It feels like this sometimes.. like we consciously walk away from the world, up a staircase, seeking refuge from what’s hurting us and our fears. But we end up in a room with no windows.. lost in a corner of our prison. We have escaped nothing. We brought it all with us. Now we are just alone with our sadness. And no one can find us..

3) Old, Decrepit, Wasteland:

The places that we go in these times are old. They are not in current time. They are broken down, lost and covered in webs and dust. There is no new thought here.. just old fears, despair and aloneness.. No place that we want to be.


Depressing, huh?

And So, How to Escape!

We definitely want to feel and experience whatever we are going through. Life is all about ALL of our experiences, not just the “feel-good” ones.

The key is to not escape into our imagination.. And we know that we are doing it because we start talking to people in our minds instead of in person, we feel like no one understands, we feel stuck and maybe we are even afraid to share in case we are judged…

 1) Know That You Have Choice:

Sometimes I’m amazed at how short our lives are.. how few years we actually have here.. and yet we bind ourselves to jobs, people, places, etc.. maybe out of fear of not finding another, out of pride, out of belief systems… And this completely limits us to all of the new experiences this world has to offer.

There are no chains around our feet. We may have fears. But the fears that often keep us bound are like “paper tigers” – they seem threatening.. but are actually not at all. All we need is courage.. and courage can be summoned..

There are no chains. We always have choice.

2) Stay In The World:

Baristas 400x328Don’t turn to the staircases to escape. Even if you are sad, grieving and lost, walk in the sunshine, or the rain, or the snow. Stay in your body.

Go where the people are. Watch them living their lives. Observe humanity. Everyone struggles. Sometimes things are “good” and sometimes they really aren’t.. for everyone..

We are part of humanity. Everything that we are experiencing stays in context when we stay part of the world.

Stay in the world.

3) Stay Present:

Don’t go into the past.. Stay here. The past is old, decrepit and full of potholes you can fall into..

Express the emotions that you are feeling and afraid to express. Cry right from your soul. Pound pillows with unexpressed rage… or laugh maniacally like the Mad Hatter if it helps release what you’re feeling.

Ask yourself, “Where am I now?”… “How am I feeling now?”..

All solutions come to you in the present moment.

Stay here now.

 And Finally:

Cleanse the Prisons of Your Imagination!

You aren’t going there anymore.

Get rid of the chains.

Break open some windows and let the sun shine in!

Sweep out the cobwebs

And let the wind blow through!


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By | 2018-02-02T14:41:15-04:00 April 27th, 2016|Categories: Hope, Spiritual Growth|0 Comments