One of the most important realizations you have as an adult is that the mind you were given at birth, which is also the one you carry around with you as you go through your day and which Buddhists call the conventional mind, comes with a default setting that needs to be reset. If you don't reset it, you'll continue to misinterpret the constant stream of data that you download on a daily basis.
And because you're misinterpreting the data with the faulty setting, you're getting a skewed picture of reality, and because you're basing your hopes and dreams and plans and schemes on a skewed version of reality, those hopes and dreams and plans and schemes are always sabotaging themselves, and you're suffering.
Different things compel us to wonder about this default setting, but once you question it, then you have to figure out how to tweak it. And some of us may wonder about it, but never get around to tweaking it. And some of us may never wonder about it at all.
For what it's worth, I knew from childhood that my settings were off because I had siezures. They usually happened in small micro-bursts, and then as a I got older, initially in my late twenties, those micro-bursts became the big neural storms known as gran mal siezures—unconscious, full amnesia, ER, hospital, months recovery, medication. As a child, I knew they were coming because I was tired and excited. Tired from not sleeping, and not sleeping from loving life. A typical kid whose mind had some atypical hard-wire issues.
At first, I tried to understand these neural events on my own. Once as a young boy—I think I was in the 7th or 8th grade—I jumped out of bed in the middle of the night, sat cross-legged on the floor until the sun came up, and tried to figure out why my mind behaved as it did. Why it became over-charged, and over-electrified? (A siezure, I learned later, is a mismanaged electrical current in the brain.)
I knew I had to get out of my body somehow, so I visualized what I might look like, sitting in that room, from each corner of my room. I got out of myself to see myself. It was an exercise. Nothing more, nothing less, but I started doing it when I was a kid. I was then able to see all the clutter that kept on rising and falling in my head, all the useless downloads in my mental cache, and I was able to clean it out. Of course, it would fill back up, and I was an active boy, so I didn't look after the problem as I should until I got older and figured out what I needed to do.
I learned from these early experiments in consciousness that our minds are more like pieces of software than we might expect. They can be rewritten to produce the results that we want. Things like happiness instead of sadness, joy instead of anxiety, patience instead of anger—all of these qualities can be developed because our minds are essentially plastic and very capable of being shaped to our desires.
More on how to do this in a later posting.