To me, there are two basic modes by which the mind operates. One mode, is thinking mode. Thoughts. This is your ego. If you think thoughts, you have an ego. When most people refer to someone as "having such a big ego" they mean that person thinks of themselves highly, maybe superior to others. It´s often obsessive thinking. But the fact is that everyone has an ego. It´s just a way for the mind to identify with itself. Some egos think down on themselves. Some overinflate the idea of themselves. That´s why there´s that weird tension in basically any conversation. There´s almost always a slight competition going on. The thinking part of the mind is in competition with thoughts from other minds. Every mind seems to think that "No, my thoughts are the best. They are the most profound, intellectual, funny etc etc".
And then you´ve got the observant mind. A mind that is "in the zone". Full present moment awareness. Zero thoughts. When monks are meditating they are trying to free the mind of thinking. Free the mind of thoughts. Free the mind of ego. "Freeing the mind" now makes sense. You´re just giving it a rest. Basically it is just about engaging the senses. Recieving feeling through touch. Recieving sight, sound, smells etc for the mind to record to memory. Most people think that they just have bad memories. What I really think is that they just have bad concentration. They havent allowed the mind to record the neccesary information. When they were reading a book, they were really thinking about work. When they were listening to a story half their mind was engaged with thoughts of something else. Some people have this to a small degree. Some to a large degree. They just don´t seem to be "there" when you´re talking to them. Their mind is somewhere else.
But we were put on earth with an ego and a thinking mind weren´t we? So why would we disregard this tool totally? Why not master it? I always aim to have a small amount of positive monkey mind. A portion of my day is devoted to thinking. Instead of having thoughts about how bad and terrible I am at life, I try and produce the most productive thoughts possible. Productive thoughts create "feel good" chemicals in your body. The more you do this, the more momentum you gain. Negative thoughts create "bad feeling" chemicals within your body. The more you do this, the more momentum you gain. And when it´s bad, it can be a vicious circle. Just choose to send the momentum in the right direction, towards promoting feel good chemicals within your body.
But what do you do when your mind naturally wanders into dark territory? When something really bad happens to you in life, and no matter how hard you try, your mind seems to replay the thoughts over and over again. I think this is what is happening when soldiers get PTSD. Their minds replay the horrifying situations over and over again. The obsessive thoughts cloud the present moment. The person can´t engage with reality. And it can really be destructive to peoples lives. Maybe you have a bad breakup and you replay the conversations over and over and over again trying in vain to resolve the situation somehow. But it´s impossible. The negative thoughts activate "bad feeling" chemicals within your body and the vicious circle gains momentum. Some get so locked into this vivious circle that they never make it out. And turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to make them feel good again. It really is a wrestling match. You have to wrestle your mind away from this dark territory and send it to a positive, productive thinking place again.
Just become conscious of your thoughts. Sit down without doing anything and recognise the fact that you are having negative thoughts. Then consciously think constructive, positive thoughts. About whatever you think is positive for you. Recognize the good feeling it produces. And do it more. And do it more. Until you have finally wrestled your mind away from the dark territory. Become obsessed with being productive and creating a good life. Become obsessed about coming up with creative ways to enjoy life again. The key though, and I stress this, is to always practise present moment awareness. What I try to do is devote more or less, 80% of my mental energy towards present moment awareness, and 20% to positive, productive, constructive thoughts. A mind that is not engaged with reality is useless. You can´t allow yourself to fully cloud reality infront of you. But use your thoughts to do something good in life and feel good.