This is a game that I used to play frequently. The version I played was to be 100% honest in that exact moment with the person who was asking the question. It is not a random game you play with anyone though. The other person, your partner in the game, knows this game exists and that either of you can start playing at ANY moment. In the version below, Marcus Aurelius takes the idea in a different way, in terms of not just being honest with someone else, but being honest with yourself. Crafting a sense of awareness about what your mind is focusing on in the now.
In Book Three: In Carnuntum of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, there is a section on avoiding certain things in your train of thought – “everything random, everything irrelevant and everything self-important or malicious.” Four really powerful words that cover a wide breadth of topics. Most unbeneficial thoughts fall into one of those categories.
He recommends that you get used to filtering your thoughts, so that if someone says “What are you thinking about?” you can respond truthfully. Your thoughts, and your truthful answer, should be straight forward and honest – just as in my version of the game. With his, however, the idea is that if you hold yourself accountable to refraining from these types of ideas you will have thoughts that are “unselfish, unconcerned with pleasure, with indulgence, squabblings, slander, envy – anything you would be ashamed to be thinking of.”
The idea is that by doing this you stay in touch with what is inside you that keeps you “undefiled by pleasures, invulnerable to any pain, untouched by arrogance, unaffected by meanness, an athlete in the greatest of all contests – the struggle not to be overwhelmed by anything that happens.” What a concept, to think of your mind like an athlete thinks of his or her body. Your mind needs to be strengthened, to be trained. I am focused with exercise and training my body, but to what end? It keeps me sane, and being fit is good for my health, but what am I doing to train my mind? This is a question I ask myself every day and I feel I am putting forth a valiant effort into this type of training.
He continues that “we can welcome whatever comes, whatever we are assigned in life. We should not worry to often, or with any selfish motive, about what other people say, do, or think. That man does only what is his to do, and considers constantly what the world has in store for him. Doing his best, and trusting that all is for the best. Lastly, that we carry our fate with us, and it carries us.” I have always thought of fate as the good things that happen in life, but I have to take it as the bad as well… The idea of your fate carrying you flips the perspective and helps to get through hard times.
So this all has to do with your mind, control over your thoughts, and acceptance of what happens. If you lose that control, you can get it back, because you have been training your mind like an athlete. Much as someone may get tired when they are running, they can rest for a minute and then continue on. We can do the same with our minds. If you get knocked off the path, or let your thoughts lead you astray, take a moment to self-correct. This is a powerful tool for me and I am improving at blocking negative thought processes as well as being more present.
This is a game everyone should try. It builds honesty, trust, vulnerability and keeps your mind pure. In that moment, when someone asks you what’s on your mind, it would not feel right to do anything other than say exactly what you’re thinking/feeling and coming from that place can result in truly heart felt dialogues.