In order to be free, the mind must first be trained. And training the mind involves, first and foremost, letting go of much of the clutter that has accumulated inside it. Though we wish to think of ourselves as 'original thinkers', the somewhat harsh reality is that much of what we are thinking consists of thoughts that have been passed on to us from other people and such random things as movies we've seen, television shows we've watched, and bits and pieces of books that we have read.
I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with being inspired by the world that surrounds us and our experiences in that world. But, when nearly all of our thoughts have come to us secondhand, like clothes one finds at a thrift shop, there is little room for thoughts that are strictly our own. Whether we realize it or not, mass conformity originates with our minds. We are taught, conditioned, brainwashed into taking on certain forms of behavior that leave little room for individuality or originality. Why do some of us find it difficult to fathom that the individual has become lost in 'the herd', as Nietzsche would say. What was true in Nietzsche's time has become much more of a concrete reality in the decades following his death.
What saddens me is that many of us try to make ourselves part of the herd by doubting our originality and allowing ourselves to choose popularity over individuality. We conform because we want to fit in. When the only other option appears to be that of being some sort of social misfit, is it any wonder that so many of us hesitate to be our true selves? It can feel odd and humiliating to go against the expectations that we perceive society and other people have of us. True, we want to be thought of as daring, fearless souls who prefer adventure over the status quo. Yet how many of us lead the lives that demonstrate this desire?
Sometimes, it is only in dreams that we take risks and choose the way of danger over the safe path that seems to assure us of security. For some, security is such a compelling need that sacrificing opportunities and challenges is the only way they know how to live. Thus, they lead lives that on the surface may seem to be filled with contentment yet are, in reality, hollow shells of lives they could have experienced had they simply dared to live their dreams.
So many of us imagine that beautiful opportunities and magical adventures will come to meet us somehow. Thus, year after year goes by and we wait, like Ariadne on the shore, for some sort of miracle that never arrives. We wait for the life that awakens us rather than awakening to life. And though some people might imagine that those who fail to pursue their dreams simply are not willing to make the effort to do so, more often than not it is fear that holds us back. We fear that others will think of us if we strive past them, discovering treasures that they will never find. We also fear that the treasure chest we hope for will be filled with mere crystals instead of exquisite gems! But even if what we dream of far surpasses all that we might find is it better to take a risk or allow our fears to keep us enclosed in our secure fantasies?
The only way we will find the courage to dare instead of simply to dream is if we transform our minds into vessels that work for us rather than against us. And the only way we can begin is by emptying our mind of every single thought that prevents us from being not only who we truly are but what we are meant to become.