How to use our mind.
This is the first post. I have written it spontaneously, without thinking it all through. And that’s appropriate as the topic is about ‘being in the present moment and let it unfold.’
I just returned from a 2-day retreat visiting my old friend Joe in Ireland. One outcome was to start this blog – and here it is! I arrived last midnight and this morning it’s created and going live.
I had one impulse when I decided to sit down and write: It was a saying I heard, related to marketing: “If you try to reach out to EVERYONE you reach out to NOONE. Instead: Focus, choose a niche, use the sniper vs. the shotgun approach.”
As true as this might be, firstly what comes to my mind hearing it: what terrible language, if I may make this judgemental statement: I mean the sniper vs. shotgun metaphor.
Marketers, ideally, are not hunters. They serve, reach out, touch others, hopefully in a meaningful way, not in a manipulative way. (But that’s not how advertising is constructed in most cases. Which is why people dislike it so much. But that’s another conversation.)
The reason why this marketing quote came to my mind (“aiming to reach out to everyone is like speaking to no one”) is that we spend valuable hours of talking about the difficulty for so many (including me) to be calm and in the present moment.
Joe had years of practice retraining his mind and he enables his clients to do so, as a professional therapist with astonishing results. One simple approach is to focus on one moment at a time, and in that short moment, you already achieve your goal. You are present. Which proofs you can be “present” at any time, at will. In a series of moments you ‘create.’
Who is in control of your mind, if not you? If we are in full control of our mind, then why do we allow our minds to go randomly into negative self-talk. Scientists say we have 50.000 thoughts a day, most of which are negative. One source that fuels the fire of negativity is undoubtedly the media that we surround ourselves with. Choices. We have options.
Coming back to the beginning of this post. “Trying” to deal with all the thoughts in our head, as and when they come up, is like trying to reach out to everyone (thought). If we do that, we are doomed to fail, as so many things cannot and don’t have to be “solved” in our head.
How often have you heard “paralysis by analysis.” I was guilty of that one lately, as I am focusing on creating a unique online learning environment for a while, figuring out the best model and finding myself being restless in the process. Especially last week I had a hard time, totally self-inflicted of course. Which triggered my spontaneous visit to Joe in Ireland. Great choice!
To be able to be “present’, choosing again, moment by moment, is a successful strategy for many, as it turns out. It’s a well-known concept, and you can do your research on that. And yet – common knowledge is not common practice!
- Common knowledge: 3 litres of pure water each day is healthy.
- Common practice: how much water do you drink each day? Many don’t even drink 3 glasses.
- Common practice: How often do you consciously choose again, overcoming the moment you just were stuck in negative self-talk, and experience ‘being present:’
Not caught in the past with guilt, nor in the future with fear?
Why not choose today as the day you start to have a few ‘breaks of being in the present moment’ especially when you feel irritations, worries or concerns creeping up.
Those mini-breaks are meant to be seconds: 15 seconds is a significant time gap to become still and calm – during those 15 seconds. Simple. Powerful.
Too simple? (Don’t tell me you don’t have 15 seconds, several times in the day.)
So taking ONE thought at a time, holding it for a bit, sitting with it, accepting it, letting it go, not being stuck with it, seems to be a good choice. Allowing negative thoughts as being OK, as it’s part of our nature, and being able to release them with ease, is a skill many of us have to relearn. To learn not to dwell on it.
Practising meditation targets the same problem. The teaching goes: “Let the thoughts come, acknowledge, let them pass by, like a cloud.” Common knowledge, but is it common practice? How many people do you know that meditate 2 x 20 mins each and every day, which is the recommendation when practising TM (Transcendental Meditation). I learned all about it in 1991, but I never pulled it off to make it my daily routine.
Many think ‘I don’t have the time for that. And even when I meditate, I get easily distracted by all the noise around me and in my head. I find it just too difficult to do.’
Well, here is where the 15 seconds approach comes in handy. Extremely practical. No excuses. Everyone can go for that. Which means you end up being present, moment by moment, if and when you choose to do so. Still, much easier said than done, of course.
However, what many need to realise and be reminded off:
- we are not our thoughts,
- we are not our emotions,
- we are not our body.
We are consciousness, an observer of our thoughts, emotions, body impulses.
These are valuable streams of information, signals coming from your head, heart and body. Be able to ‘sense’ them, acknowledge them, don’t get hooked up by them.
Those three resources help us
- to live,
- hopefully, to love – starting with loving ourselves, as you cannot give to others what you don’t have,
- to learn in the process,
- and, if that’s important to us, to leave a legacy.
Stephen Covey (author of ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’) used those four keywords a lot, and they resonate with me. This Blog is one way to leave my legacy.
On that note, I sign off for today.
To the ‘Undivided Leader’ in you.
Thomas & Joe