February 20, 2013
From our computers to your phones, we all get notifications to update our software. Even your TV or DVD player might tell you they are ready for some new software. Updates often add functions, fix bugs, and help the entire system work to produce better results.
The human mind/body is a system that also 'runs on software.' Your 'programming' is the result of your education, culture, upbringing, and experiences. Is it safe to assume that you, like a computer, might have some bugs that need fixing? Certainly. We sometimes refer to these 'bugs' as our 'buttons' or 'triggers.' When we're faced with a certain kind of situation, we react and process it in ways that are consistent with our programming. Some of this happens on a conscious level and some on an unconscious level.
Acknowledging that we can benefit from a 'software update,' is the first step in taking specific and positive action.
Realizing that the mind is a dynamic collection of thoughts and memories that gives rise to a multitude of interwoven feelings and new thoughts and ideas represents a big step in your own evolution towards finding the kinds of updates that will work for you.
We can all update our software, but it takes work.
The first step is being open to change. The second is seeking to discover how you are currently programmed. The third is to determine what you want to keep and what you want to change. The fourth step is actively working to re-program the 'code' that is no longer working to produce the best results. The fifth step is to make changes permanent by changing your habits and behavior. When you finish, you repeat the process.
Changing your 'code' doesn't mean brainwashing yourself to believe anything that serves to simply cover up the problems. It means the opposite: being honest with yourself and looking at your situation and your thoughts about your situation with complete objectivity. It means being present, observing yourself within each moment, taking note of your thought types, your feelings, discovering your preferred perspectives and orientations.
It's easy to keep piling more and more layers of 'code' on top of one another, but that's not a long-term solution. Adding to a system is not the same as going through it with a broom and dust pan, cleaning out what is no longer working or needed. This process, of clearing away what doesn't work and replacing it with what does, is both accessible and achievable. It does; however, require a belief that this type of fundamental change is possible. It also requires a clear plan or technology.
One such 'technology' exists here, on this site. It's called the Thoughtfulness Practice, and it incorporates teachings on all levels of being, from the physical to the intellectual, and spiritual. There is a process that works. It is possible to update your software and make the types of changes that will produce a lifetime of higher functioning. Goals can include reducing or extinguishing worry, or increasing feelings of connectedness. These are simple goals, but you need to use the right code.
Ask yourself: What would I change about my thinking right now, if I could choose one thing?
When you know what that is, step back, see the patterns that are not working, and begin to reconstruct your thinking around the behavior or experience that you prefer. This is possible when you use the right tools.
Leave your questions or comments below.
Thank you for reading.
September 25, 2012
For many of us, worrying is like a given. Everyone seems to do it, and almost no one questions it. Why, when it’s largely agreed-upon that worrying produces little or no value, do so many of us participate in this seemingly unproductive exercise?
To answer this question, we’ll need to define what we mean by the term ‘worrying.’ A simple definition I can offer is this: “Worrying is the combination of imagining an undesirable situation occurring at some point in the future, with the anxiety associated with that thought.”
Right away, we can agree that worrying is a voluntary action of entertaining the idea that, at some point in the future, there will exist a situation that we will experience as not only undesirable, but also as anxiety-producing.
Why, on earth would we do this? What purpose does this serve? One could argue that worrying is our way of making sure that we take steps to prepare for the future. In other words, if we are able to imagine an undesirable scenario at some point in the future, we might be able to prevent it from happening by taking some preventative actions in the present. This seems to be perfectly reasonable; however, what we are really talking about here is preparation, which does not need to include the anxiety that often comes with worry.
Getting back to the definition above, we see that the act of worrying involves imagining an undesirable situation. This, in and of itself, may not cause us to experience anxiety in the present; however, it often does. The key difference between worrying and simply thinking about the future, lies within our reaction to those thoughts in the present moment.
What happens when we worry, is that we “buy in” to the scenario, as if it were really going to happen. Our mind follows the thought, and in many ways, gets swept up by it. We find ourselves feeling as if we are also becoming swept up, our feet rising off the ground, our emotions running rampant. We respond to our imagined thoughts as if they were real. But of course, they are not.
How do we change this pattern? How do we direct our mind and body back into the present moment, where everything is okay–where we are safe? The answer is simple. We have only to remember that we have thoughts about the future because our mind is trying to help us. Our mind is presenting us with as many different scenarios as possible, as a way to make sure we are prepared for anything that could happen. When we acknowledge that our mind is simply trying to help us, but that not all of our thoughts about the future are valid–or even true, we place ourselves in the position of being able to choose which thoughts to follow, and which ones to experience as merely products of a busy mind.
One way to change your perspective with regard to various thoughts, is to imagine your mind as your helper, which it is. Rather than thinking of your thoughts as “my thoughts,” think of them as “my mind’s thoughts.” Think of the thoughts your mind produces as your mind’s way of trying to help you. After all, the main purpose of your mind is to help you solve problems. The mind seeks out problems to solve. When there is no apparent problem to solve, the mind often creates potential problems to solve. Worrying can be thought of as your mind presenting you with a potential problem to solve. When we experience worrisome thoughts from this perspective, it becomes quite clear that we have a choice to either follow the thought as if it were real, or to simply note the thought and remain grounded in the present moment.
Having an active mind is not a problem. In fact, it’s a blessing. The only way our thoughts can cause us to experience anxiety about the future, is for us to forget that not all of our thoughts are valid with regard to our lives in the present–or the future.
The next time you start experiencing worrisome thoughts, use it as an opportunity to see those thoughts as products of your creative mind. Celebrate the fact that your mind is so creative that it is able to imagine different scenarios occurring at some point in the future–even ones that might cause you anxiety. Do not try to suppress your thoughts. Do not fight your mind. Rather, acknowledge that your mind is simply trying to help you. Be grateful for having this creative resource at your disposal. Say “thank you” to your mind, for offering you so many options. When you do arrive at your imagined ‘point in the future,’ where you will need to make a decision, you will do what is needed with the tools you have at that time. This is all you have ever done–and all you will ever do. This is perfectly natural and all you can expect, since there is no way to address a ‘future problem’ in the present moment.
Meeting challenges does not have to involve feeling upset and powerless. To the contrary, working through challenges can be one of the most invigorating and satisfying things we do. When we are grounded in the present, worrying about the future, becomes a thing of the past.
September 16, 2012
Today–Not tomorrow–Not next week–Not next year.
Here–Not Nearby–Not over there–Not in some 'special' place.
Within–Not in a speech–Not in text–Not from someone else.
The world will EVOLVE when individuals choose to evolve. When more people devote time and attention to improving their life experience through seeking to understand themselves and use their minds in ways that are reasonable, responsible, and in ways that do not harm themselves or cause them to harm others–The world will evolve.
The world will EVOLVE when individuals stop blaming each other for the quality of their lives and take responsibility for their own choices. When more people stop focusing so much on what other people are saying, writing, and doing, and start to focus on what they can do, as individuals, to help–The world will evolve.
The world with EVOLVE when individuals stop searching for peace and enlightenment in places they cannot be, for things they cannot know, in a way they cannot access. When more people come to know God through knowing themselves, knowing their world, and knowing each other–The world will evolve.
The world will EVOLVE when individuals come to understand their minds as a tool for solving problems, rather than subjecting themselves to the problems created by their minds. When more people allow their minds to be free, while choosing the few useful thoughts among the thousands–The world will evolve.
Evolution relies on the emergence of efficiency over mere activity, objectivism over mysticism, and visionaries where there were once only voyeurs.
This is it. There is no no other time, no other place, and no one else who will do it.
For the world to evolve, we must each evolve.
March 15, 2012
When you're reviewing conversations that you had with other people, or thinking about conversations that you will have with them, who are you talking to? In your mind, you're having a conversation with the other person, but in reality, everything that they “say” and “do” is being projected by your mind. This is self-evident and with the exception of those who may be delusional, most people would agree that they are creating all of the “conversations” that occur in their own minds.
We all engage in these types of conversations and there's nothing out of the ordinary about this. This type of mental activity is evidence of the helping nature of the mind. As I have previously discussed, the mind is always looking for puzzles to solve and ways to help improve our situation. Internal dialoguing only becomes an issue for someone when they lose their perspective and get swept away in their own mind flow.
If your internal dialoguing is causing you to experience feelings of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, rapid shallow breathing, sweating or nervousness, it may help you to remind yourself of the process in which you are engaging–at the moment that you are doing it. Most people tend to accept internal dialogue as part of everyday life. As I mentioned, there's nothing out of the ordinary about having internal dialogue. Sometimes; however, internal dialoguing can result in a decrease in the quality of our current experience by distracting us from our “real-time” life.
Becoming aware of the quantity and the quality of our internal dialogue is an important first step to improving the overall quality of your life experience. A very simple action, and something that anyone can do at any time, is to identify when you are having internal dialogue by pausing to take note. All you need to do is say to yourself “I'm dialoguing with myself." There is no judgment in this statement. The purpose is to simply identify your current state and bring it to your attention in an objective way.
By using the statement “I'm dialoguing with myself” you create the opportunity to examine your own thinking, as if you were a third party observing the conversation between two other people (you, and the person you're “talking” to). From this perspective, you may gain insight into the nature of the “conversation.”
If your internal dialoguing is bringing about feelings of anxiety, you could simply decide to stop. If you're like most people, your internal dialogue is probably somewhat repetitive and you tend to have the same or similar conversations with the same people about the same issues. If there is an issue that is ongoing, say between you and someone you work with, and you are engaging in repetitive internal dialoguing with the hopes of finding an acceptable solution, you may wish to take a different approach. Since internal dialoguing is actually a conversation with yourself, it stands to reason that you may never find resolution because the conversation is completely one-sided and does not actually involve the other party, with whom you are working. To move forward, it's likely the case that you will need to address the issue directly with the other person rather than exclusively within your own mind. In the meantime, it may help to reduce the amount of time that you spend engaged in internal dialogue.
The simple act of identifying a process, such as dialoguing, can have profound and positive effects on your general sense of wellbeing, freeing up valuable mental ‘real estate’ that can be used for more productive and positive experiences. One of the most enjoyable experiences that could take the place of internal dialoguing is to notice the sensation of being alive from within your own body. Focusing on “the evidence of life," such as your breathing, heartbeat, physical sensations and everything that you experience through your senses, can be a wondrous and enjoyable experience. You do not have to “do” anything to experience the wonder and beauty of life. All you have to do is pay attention to what is.
When we clear away the clutter from our mind, stepping out of our ‘mind flow’ long enough to stand at the bank of the river, and stop trying to make our lives happen by using our minds, we increase the potential for noticing and acknowledging our true nature, which is poised at the edge of evolution. It's ironic that many of us seem to be under the impression that we can think our way out of the problems of thinking! Having access to a resource such as the human mind is an amazing gift, but sometimes the solution to the problems of thinking can be so simple, they tend to be overlooked or undervalued.
Life is not complicated, nor is it meant to cause anxiety or suffering. Those states generally exist in the domain of thought. The next time you are over thinking, having internal dialogues and feeling swept away in the flow of your own thoughts, pause to notice this with an objective statement. You may even find it useful to say it out loud. “I'm talking to myself.” or “I'm having an internal dialogue.” From a place of objectivity, you can choose to take a different path. Try it and see what happens.
December 11, 2011
The dictionary defines 'Sorrow' as: 1) deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved and 2) resultant unhappy or unpleasant state.
In an earlier post called 'The Functional Mind,' I talked about how the primary functions of the mind is to identify, categorize, associate, store and retrieve data (information about the world, both external and internal).
Looking at the feeling of sorrow through the lens of the Thoughtfulness Practice, we can immediately see that a state of sorrow depends on us first categorizing something as a 'loss,' secondly as associated with something 'loved,' and most importantly - the thoughts that lead to this state must be retrieved over and over again.
We've all felt the deep sadness that comes from experiencing the loss of something we hold dear. It might have been a friend, family member or a pet. It could have been a quality that was 'lost' such as tenderness or innocence.
Whatever it was, the 'loss' is experienced as an emotion that often manifests throughout the body as a feeling of both emptiness and heaviness. We might experience sensations of tension coupled with feelings of helplessness. Sorrow is a powerful feeling and it can weigh us down and drain us of energy.
Clearly, there are times when it is appropriate and, some might argue, necessary to allow one's self to enter into a state of sorrow. In times of great loss, sorrow serves to slow us down, provide a space for mourning, reflection, and the healing process to begin. This is normal and when appropriate, sorrow can be exactly what we need to process an event in our lives.
The key to living an enlightened life, is to know when and how to move beyond sorrow and resume the natural state of bliss and gratitude that is the birthright of every living being. As 'universal beings' we are wired for bliss and healthiest when manifesting joy. We are most productive when we are happy and looking forward to the many gifts each day brings.
Let's see how we can use the teachings of the Thoughtfulness Practice to move beyond sorrow, when the time is right.
Sorrow, as a condition, depends largely on the re-experiencing of the feeling of loss. In most cases, the 'loss' is a change from one circumstance to another (i.e., My pet was here and now he/she is gone). In order to experience the sorrow, we must re-mind ourselves of the loss and continue to wish that the current condition was different than it is.
We know that the mind's job is to store and retrieve data, but we also know that it is our perspective and orientation that determines the quality of that information. 'Quality" in this case refers to the relevance and usefulness of the thought as it pertains to our life.
When we take an objective look at a 'sorrow-producing' thought, we can examine it for its quality by asking the questions:
- Is this thought true in its timeliness?
- Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
- Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
Is this thought true in its timeliness?
Sometimes we hold on to an event, thought, or feeling long after the event has past. We continue to re-mind ourselves of it until it becomes almost hard-wired into our daily life. We change our perspective to accommodate the thought and can even change our entire orientation in life. In some cases, our mood suffers, we feel sad, our bodies ache, we're unmotivated and even angry. In extreme cases we might experience depression and feelings of helplessness.
The KEY is to consider the timeline and be realistic about the event, which may have happened months and even years before. Even though we can remember it, is it true in this moment? Are those events happening now? Chances are, if we're being honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We can help move beyond sorrow, by admitting that it is us who are continuing to pull the event into the present, through the use of our mind. This is a mis-use of the mind. The first step is to notice that this is happening.
Does maintaining this thought serve my highest good?
If you were going to recommend that someone else either use or not use the 'sorrow-producing thought,' what would you tell them? Be honest. Does pulling the thought and feeling into the present serve you in your highest good? Does it help you feel more like yourself or something else? If it is not serving you, then it makes sense to change your perspective and focus on what does. You can do this by simply observing the thought, feeling the feeling, and not reacting negatively to the presence of the thought. (See the article "Feeling the Feeling.)
We can allow a thought without having a reactive experience to it. When we provide compassion to our own sorrow, we begin to heal - we begin to understand that it is not the event that is causing us to suffer, but our resistance to the change in our life situation. We sometimes become bound to a feeling and the orientation around that feeling. We might think that if we are not sad that we are not honoring the person or thing that we loved, but this thinking only hurts ourselves and those who are with us. In fact, we can honor those we loved by living a bright and joyful life.
When a though does not align with your highest good, you have the option of acknowledging that. When you truly acknowledge that you could be spending more time with your quality thoughts, you will reclaim your highest good and use your mind in ways that lead to productively and happiness.
Am I willing and ready to let go of this thought/feeling?
As mentioned above, we sometimes hold on to a thought or feeling for various reasons. We may actually become attached to feelings of sadness and sorrow to the point where they become part of who we are. You can sometimes see this in people who have suffered great loss. They seem to carry the thought and feelings of sorrow with them everywhere, never letting go, always focused on a feeling of loss and suffering. It's not as important to know why people do this as it is to know that it is always a choice.
In order to allow a feeling to move beyond your conscious mind, you must be willing to allow that to happen, which means you must be willing to let the associations go as well. This might feel like abandoning the thing you loved, but in truth, it is honoring all that is good in life. Have you ever met someone who suggested to you that, should they pass on before you, they would want you to feel sorrow for a long time? Of course not.
Once the sorrow has served its purpose, once the appropriate space has been created and rituals for healing have been practiced, once the person, pet or thing has been acknowledged and respects have been paid, the focus can return to the present moment - not to the future, but the here and now.
Letting go of sorrow does not mean forgetting about people or what they meant. It means returning to a state of gratitude and wonderment for each and every moment that is your life. It means allowing yourself to be present in your life and not stuck in the past or future.
We can move beyond sorrow when we acknowledge that our mind is a tool for solving problems - not producing them. When we are able to manage our thoughts in a way that produces quality, we can release feelings of sorrow. By embracing the wonder and joy that is inherent in each moment, we focus on appreciation for the gifts of life, rather than what we think was taken from us.
Each day is a gift. That's why it's called the present. (Anon)
What do you think of this Thoughtfulness Practice?
Have you found ways to move beyond sorrow?
Leave your comments below.
August 18, 2011
One of the goals of the Thoughtfulness Practice is to bring more presence into your life. By presence, I'm referring to attending to your environment, your surroundings as well as your inner state. When we focus on living in the present moment, we generally find life to be a peaceful, enjoyable, and potentially an even magical experience. One way to expand your sense of presence is by managing the amount of time your spend focusing on the past and/or future.
Too Much Past
When we spend time thinking about past event, whether we find them 'positive' or 'negative', joyful or sorrowful, extraordinary or commonplace; we spend less time focusing our attention to the present moments. Our minds, as storage and retrieval systems, are often busy pulling out old 'movies' to show us, replaying them over and over, sometimes as a means to possibly help us figure something out about the events, and at other times, for no apparent reason.
Often, time spent pondering past events proves to be anxiety-causing, as we tend to remember emotionally-charged events that have the potential to place us in a state of anxiety. Remembering and talking about anxiety-producing events (memories) from our past can serve a purpose, when used as part of a therapeutic process, for example. But when 'used' as a pastime, with no clear purpose or outcome in mind, these thoughts provide little value and can even cause us ongoing harm.
Perseverating on 'negative' events can change our perspective and even our orientation, giving us the impression that our lives are lower-quality. Focusing on those events that cause us anxiety can result in elevated levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), higher blood pressure, and cause outbreaks, rashes, and nervousness. Most of these conditions can be lessened or even avoided altogether where we to spend less time pondering the past and more time in the present.
Within the Thoughtfulness Practice, the condition wherein someone spends a large amount of time remembering past events, reviewing them verbally and non-verbally, and replaying certain anxiety-causing events over and over, we would say that the person is "using too much past." Why "using?" We use the term "using" because thoughts are produced by the mind and "used" by the self. Storing, saving, recalling, and using thoughts is always a choice made by the self. (See the article 'The Functional Mind' for more.)
Too Much Future
As with thinking about the past, thinking about the future can cause similar conditions in the person. When we think about the future, we're creating stories (fantasies), based on what we think might happen. The problem with taking our visions to heart is that virtually all of them are not true.
Our minds are constantly producing thoughts, often in the form a short 'movies' that play in our mind's eye. These movies are one of our mind's ways of trying to help us navigate life. We must always keep 'in mind' that our minds are problem-solving, highly creative tools that make us special and unique. They are also capable of producing a large amount of material in a short period of time.
When left unchecked, the mind will tend to produce hundreds if not thousands of possible outcomes for the future. It will show us these as a way to help us be prepared for those times, if and when they come. The mis-managed mind will continue to produce and play thoughts over and over again, sometimes causing the 'users' the same types of anxiety as do thoughts about the past.
Thinking about future events in detail, whether it be a conversation with someone else, giving a presentation, tackling a job or task, or doing any number of other things, can be helpful in certain situations. Considering options is a good way to prepare and be ready. Using the mind to develop a plan or procedure can be time well spent and result in productivity. Allowing the mind to run free in your head, showing any and all 'movies' it chooses, whether based on facts or fiction, whether they cause you joy or anxiety, can result in the same types of problems as using too much past. When someone spends a large amount of their time focused on the future, worrying about what will happen, considering all types of undesirable outcomes, we say that they are 'using too much future.'
The Thoughtfulness Practice teaches us that one way to increase our time in the present, is to reduce our time spent thinking in terms of the past and future.
A Thoughtfulness Practice:
- When you find yourself thinking about the past, consider the quality of the thoughts. Become an observer of your own thinking process and ask yourself: "What is the purpose of using this thought right now?", "What is the feeling attached to this thought or 'movie?'", "Have I considered this thought already? If so, is there any point to repeating it?".
If you find that your current thoughts are about something over which you have no control, consider making a mental or physical note and return to attending to your present surroundings.
If you find that the thought has an emotional charge to it, invite that emotion to 'speak more fully' within your body, rather than pushing it away. Try to find out what the emotion wants to 'say' to you. What is the message? If there is no message, feel the feeling as much as you can. Often this will allow it to dissipate or lessen.
If you have had the thought before, know that your mind is repeating thoughts in an attempt to be productive and helpful, but that you needn't spend additional time reviewing thoughts that you have already considered. Lessen repeating thoughts by focusing your attention in the present, feeling your body from within and attending to all that your sense bring to you from your current surroundings.
When we lose touch with the present, our minds tend to anchor in the past or future. Becoming aware of time spend in the past or future is one of the first steps in developing your Thoughtfulness Practice. You may find yourself in the past or future. Return to the present by acknowledging that your mind is simply trying to help, to figure things out, but that what you need most is simply to be present. Be grateful that you have a creative mind, but manage your thoughts in a responsible way, using only those thoughts that are purposeful, productive, and valid in relationship to your life as it is in the moment.
What do you think about this article?
What points speak to you the most?
Share your thoughts below.
August 7, 2011
Remember the feeling of excitement when you experience something for the first time? It might be receiving a gift, going to a place you've never been, or meeting someone new. The state of experiencing 'newness' often sparks our interest and boosts our energy level as we explore and find our way.
The energy we feel when discovering something 'new' is largely a result of being in a state of 'flow,' an in-the-moment awareness that places us 'at the edge' of time. When we are in-the moment, we're not thinking about the past or future and we can take in everything that life offers up as it happens.
Remember the first time you road a bicycle, drove a car, or flew in an airplane? Can you imagine having that feeling again when doing those things? if not, why not? Why do we sometimes find things that once excited us, not as fulfilling? If we're experiencing the same thing, why do we not feel as interested or excited about it?
As humans, we're always looking for something new and novel. Our minds enjoy a mystery, a puzzle, and a problem to solve. We love to figure things out and explore what's new. When we become familiar with something, we tend to 'check it off' in out mind as 'been there done that.' This thinking is at the core of boredom. Boredom is the state of not seeing the amazing world that is right in front of you, largely because you think you already know everything there is to know about it. How odd, given that each day, each moment is new.
If you're bored with the world, chances are the feeling is mutual.
Through repeated exposure to things or ideas, we can become numb to them. We see the same things passing through our awareness and sooner or later, we stop noticing them. We become numb to the reality around us and search for things that are 'new' and 'different.' We ride bicycles, drive our cars, fly in planes, and not only are we often not excited about it, we find things to complain about. "the brakes squeak," "the oil needs changing," "the flight is delayed." When did riding a bicycle, driving a car, and riding in a plane become work? – when you stopped appreciating how amazing it is to have those opportunities.
We take so many things for granted, and sometimes the more we get, the less we appreciate it. We turn a faucet and clean, drinkable water comes out - even hot water. We flick on a switch and light fills the room. We turn a knob and the temperature of the air changes to make us more comfortable. We dial some numbers into a palm-sized device and in a moment, we're talking to someone half-way around the world. Do we show amazement for these miracles each time we experience them? Most people don't, but we certainly are upset when they don't happen!
Think gas prices are high? Want to get more for your money? Here's what you can do: The next time you get in your car to drive, notice how amazing it is that you can actually get into a little box on wheels, press a button, turn some knobs and flick some switches, and find yourself propelled (powerfully) down the road. Remember the feeling of the first time you drove. Renew your appreciation for the current moment in which you are gifted with the opportunity to do it again and again. The driving doesn't change, only your perception of what it means.
By really appreciating the opportunities in your life, you gain fulfillment of that life.
It doesn't matter how many 'new' or 'valuable' things you chase down or capture. Someone can fill a room in their house with money and after the novelty has worn off, after they have taken their tenth 'money bath,' after they have shown all their friends, after they have looked through the door a hundred times, sooner or later it will just be a room full of clutter. It's the not the 'having' that brings fulfillment, but the 'playing of the game.'
Let things pass through your hands, rather than holding on to them. Feel the joy in each moment as life presents you with opportunities and experiences. Appreciate doing everything you do, even if you've done it for years. Experience each time like the first time. It is!
The next time you use an appliance or tool, take time to appreciate the person who designed it, the person who built it, and the opportunity you have to use it. As you work, imagine NOT having it and be grateful for it.
The next time you ride a bicycle, drive a car, or fly in an airplane, consider how amazing it is to have that opportunity. Think about what it would be like to NOT have it and be grateful. Think about all the people who made that experience possible and thank them in your own way. Live with gratitude for every opportunity you get and your life with be FULFILLING.
What do you relate to most about this article? Share your thoughts below or share it with a friend.
August 1, 2011
You may not realize it, but you think in stories.
The 'events' in our lives are stored in our minds (and to some degree in our bodies as well), able to be recalled and shared through what I call "storying," – the act of reciting past events and thoughts within the context of a conversation.
Maybe you know someone who often thinks and communicates through story. Maybe that someone is you! 'Storying' is quite common and often includes narrative, such as "I said..." and "then she said...,' etc.. It's a way to bring out detail, take the listener into one's world, and convey information. Where storying can become problematic with regards to Thoughtfulness, is when it is done unconsciously, without taking the listener or the context of the conversation into consideration.
What is unconscious storying?
Often, when talking to someone else, there is an exchange of ideas, thoughts, information, etc. This exchange, to be meaningful, follows a logical path from topic to topic, connected through 'bridges' of thought that span various subject matter and address the aspects of the participants.
Because of the power of the associative mind, the process of connecting one thing to another by identifying commonalities between things, ideas, or emotions, it is possible to quickly link to a story that may or may not have relevance in the present context of a conversation.
Something you can try, is to focus your attention on any item in the area where you are right now. Identify one thing, then see what your mind does. If you're like most people, you will be re-minded of at least one past event that involved an associated item. If you tell someone (or yourself) about the events that you associate with that item, you have created a story. Most of us have many stories we can tell about a particular item or idea. They often include times when we were having an emotional peak or valley (since those events tend to be imprinted on multiple levels; cognitive, physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.)
One question we can ask ourselves is: "What is the purpose of my story in this moment?"
Often times, we tell a story simply because we're reminded of it. Sometimes, we even change the subject of a conversation to tell one of our stories. Sometimes we find ourselves waiting for the other person to leave a break in their story so we can tell ours! The process that results in our telling of a particular story has to do with two at least two aspects; 1) our perspective and 2) our orientation.
Perspective is the way we view something. Is the glass half-filled or half-emptied? Orientation is the way we view most things. Is life a struggle or an adventure?
Perspective is shaped by one's knowledge, values, beliefs, and ability to become aware of the many aspects of a thing or idea.A perspective may be broad or narrow. It may be deep or shallow. And it is almost always shaped by our orientation.
Orientation is shaped by combining multiples of the same perspective. Over time, we may choose to view things a certain way. This 'way of seeing' eventually becomes our primary way of seeing, to the point where our compass shifts, "True North" actually moves, and our ability to see the world 'as it is' is all but a fantasy, although ironically, we are often confident in what we see as truth.
Thoughtfulness seeks to re-orient the individual through cognitive mindfulness practices designed to increase functional perspective. Over time, the individual regains his/her orientation with the world and finds peace where there was once conflict and confusion.
How can we become more conscious of our use of story?
Individuals can use a Thoughtfulness Practice to gain insight into their choice of story, which intern will inform positive changes. Noticing associative patterns that result in story choices is the beginning to positive change. Managing one's stories and using them in a respectful manner is one goal of Thoughtfulness.
When we become aware of the forces behind our stories, we gain the capacity to shape our perspective and ultimately, our orientation. When we orient ourselves with the nature of the universe, which is love, we find ourselves, and in that we find both peace and power.
A Thoughtfulness Practice:
When in conversation with someone, note their use of story, paying particular attention to their perspective with regards to what is important to them. Observe how this relates to their overall orientation. Note how you use story, your perspective and orientation. Ask yourself:
- Why did I choose the stories I did?
- What about each story is important to me?
- What effect did my stories have on my emotions?
- What did I learn about my perspective and orientation?
- What would I change the next time to move my orientation in a positive direction?
More about stories
The stories we repeatedly tell ourselves and others about our lives shape and inform the quality of those lives. Some of a person's stories are self-created, but many (more than you might think) are provided to the person from birth. Stories about race, gender, religion, and other traits are embedded by parents, authority figures, and society in general. In some cases, stories about one's family or culture can change one's perspective and orientation to the point where he/she is not fully connecting with people (or the world in general) in an authentic way.
Becoming aware of our inherited and 'borrowed' stories can be a vital step in achieving a state of mindfulness and inner- and outer-peace. Other practices that relate to all types of stories will be addressed in other posts. Stay tuned!
June 27, 2011
Mindfulness, the practice of conscious attention to the present moment while maintaining a non-judgmental mindset. This mind state has been to focus of Eastern practitioners for centuries and in recent years, has been of increasing interest in the West, as more and more people search for effective tools to help them cope with and manage what seems like an ever-increasing pace of life.
Neuroscience is examining the effects of conscious thought on people from all walks of life, including those who participate in various psychological therapies and those with specific needs. Studies are beginning to show that there can be measurable benefits from engaging in specific types of meditation practices, many of which include elements of mindfulness. It turns out that our minds are more plastic and receptive to conditioning than previously imagined. By actively participating in various thought processes, we can change our mental and emotional orientation, thereby increasing the quality of our thoughts and our lives. There are many different applications and approaches that incorporate and support mindfulness. Thoughtfulness is one of these approaches.
The Thoughtfulness Approach includes a collection of related practices. Thoughtfulness is based on several assertions that form the foundation of the approach. Some of these include:
- The mind is a mechanism that decodes, associates, categorizes, stores, and retrieves data.
- The mind produces myriad thoughts that are available for consideration, interpretation, and application.
- Thoughts may be categorized according to their type, relevance, and usefulness.
- Thoughts may be applied, discarded, stored, or transformed.
- Thoughts often produce emotions, which are processed in a way similar to that of data.
- Emotions are often felt in the body and may be processed in a number of different ways.
- The mind/body is an empathetic system, and responsive to external conditions.
- Thoughts and emotions are often over-associatioed and may result in misperceptions and dysfunctional thinking.
- Dysfunctional thoughts and emotions may be cleared from the mind/body through the use of phycho-somatic processes, without the use of drugs or invasive procedures.
- The tools one needs to effectively manage one's thoughts are universally available, regardless of race, gender, age, socio-economic status and spiritual or religious belief systems.
- The Thoughtfulness Practice may be used in conjunction with spiritual and religious systems.
When practiced on a regular basis and with conscious attention, Thoughtfulness has the potential to reduce time spent in states of worry, anxiety, isolation, loneliness, anger, bitterness, depression and fear. Thoughtfulness has the potential to increase enjoyment, raise self-esteem, increase productivity, elevate mood, improve sleep, boost energy levels, and increase a general sense of wellbeing.
Contact us to discover ways to incorporate the Thoughtfulness Practice.