Fog in the Head

A participant in one of my mindfulness classes asked a question how to get rid of the fog in her head. This was a very profound question and I ended up giving her a lengthy reply.

To begin with, she is not unique in any way. We all carry fogs in our heads that seem to be present at all times. The fog undermines our ability to live in the present moment and to be present to our experiences with other people. Furthermore, it obscures our vision as we end up taking it for real. Day-to-day pressures of our work, deadlines, performance reviews and organizational changes cause us to find ourselves enveloped in a fog over which we feel powerless and helpless.

How can mindfulness meditation help? To begin with, we come to realize that the so-called fog is not a static fog. Rather, it is rebuilt continuously from moment to moment. The fog has various supply lines that feed nutrients to it. One such supply line is our need for incessant thinking, another supply line is our emotions that arise from reliving past memories and our concerns about the future, yet another supply line is our need to keep our bodies comfortable at all times. Finally, the day-to-day stresses of living supply their own nutrients to this fog.

Mindfulness can help us observe the various supply lines and to cut them off. This amorphous fog can then come into sharp focus so that we can see its form, shape and texture. It can also help us realize that our mental landscape is far more expansive than the fog. From this perspective, fogs appear like clouds that come and go, clouds that never stay in the same spot. We can then conclude that there is no need to identify ourselves with the fog. This way, we cut off the largest supply line to the fog.

Mindfulness meditation therefore will allow us to live with the fog in such a way that we have complete freedom from it. Our vision and our actions are not hampered by it. We realize that the fog is an artifact of our living system and there is no need to feel powerless over it. To the extent that we have this understanding and realization, we will be free from it and be more present to our experiences at home and work and be more fulfilled and productive.

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