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Snap-to-Guide and a Guide-to-Freedom
Joanne Sales – February 2010

My friend’s sister didn’t speak to her for 17 years, because of something that happened in high school, which no one remembers. One would think that over time, the importance of that unknown event would diminish. But every time my friend’s sister would think about my friend, her mind would snap to the pain, judgment or anger instead of to the real person who was a phone call or a smile away.

Our minds are wonderful, powerful, creative, intelligent – but can be the cause of immense suffering. A noticeable portion of our suffering may be the result of the propensity of the mind to retread familiar roads and well-worn paths. This can be a good thing, as it means we can learn to spell, be polite, find our way home and ride a bike. But it also means that we can obsess on problems, blow them way out of proportion, and become a prisoner of our minds.

“Snap-to-guide” is a function in Photoshop, a computer art program. If you get kind of close to “the line” on your graphic, the program will correct you - it will take you THERE. Snap! It’s a wonderful function that saves time and makes graphics more accurate. But sometimes you don’t want to go THERE. You want to do something else. You want to fine tune something, change it, head in another direction. Then snap-to-guide doesn’t construct a fine piece of artwork – but rather prison bars. My friend and her sister lived within prison walls, because of one sister’s lack of ability to take her mind to better places.

Better places. We all know what better places are. We like being there. We do good things, think good thoughts, build bridges and heal. But what about the places we don’t really like to be, but where we spend a lot of time? Anger, reruns of bad experiences, old rants, worn out scripts, negative thoughts. Sadly, the more time we spend in these places, the more likely we are to go back there again.

Fortunately, in Photoshop, we can turn off the Snap-to-guide function. Turning off the snap-to-guide function in our mind is much harder.

Brain scientists are discovering the role biochemistry plays in our ability to be happy, pay attention, change - and forgive our sisters. Brain neurotransmitters create a chemical feeling tone to accompany our recurring thoughts, feelings and obsessions. We become attracted to thoughts and experiences that match that feeling tone.

Well, that’s not exactly good news, is it? If we feel angry, we assume we have the right to be angry at someone. It seldom occurs to us that we’re just angry. Seventeen years later? Still angry?

But the angry sister in question is not beyond her own help. There are a host of things we can do about bad feelings once we recognize that is what they are - just bad feelings. We can just look at them, without judgment or description. Breathe into them. Do some healing work. The light of our consciousness is even more powerful than sunlight, and even deeply ingrained thought patterns can change with a nod of recognition.

We can also consciously use the snap-to-guide function of the brain to our benefit - using it to heal instead of hurt ourselves. Instead of doing more internal complaining, we can affirm the healing of that feeling. We can snap-to-guide to a different thought, “I am grateful for my family and my sister.” “I choose to let go and be happy.”

It takes an obsessive-compulsive mind to remember to say something over and over every time we have “a feeling.” But, heck, we all are obsessive-compulsive! Why else would we keep being our familiar selves when there are so many options?

The use of mantras in spiritual traditions recognizes the danger and opportunity that our snap-to-guide nature opens up for us. Instead of letting the mind run loose, repeated words (mantras) guide the mind to where we want it to go. The mind has been likened to a drunken monkey, running the show without respect, good sense or higher intelligence. Mantra in Sanskrit means to take away the mind - to take the power out of the hands of the drunken monkey. Once we get the monkey under control, our higher innate intelligence knows what to do.

We can’t change our sisters, and maybe we don’t need to or want to. We have enough to keep us busy fine-tuning our own minds.

Here’s the good news - my friend and her sister are now friends.