LIONMIND - STEP 4

Strengthen your Mind and Spirit with the LionMind Agenda - 8x mental skills for a calm mind, free spirit and brave heart.

THE POWER & MINDFULNESS OF THOUGHT


“When you think about the future, Do you focus on what can go wrong? or Do you imagine how you want it to be?"

 

Thoughts are just thoughts - but they control how we feel, our energy and how we act. Your inner dialogue determines how you feel about yourself. To become aware of the thoughts that affect you, you should practice mindfulness for a while each day. Sit upright, close your eyes and focus on breathing for a few minutes. Notice what thoughts you have, without judging them and without following them. Just let the thoughts come and go, while you focus on the breath. Notice how it silences and calms down within you.

They do not always reflect reality. But your thoughts can determine what reality you live in. Your inner framework, the story you choose to live, becomes your life.

The ability to look at thoughts as just thoughts, and then being able to choose which thoughts you want to act on and give space, helps you on several levels in life. We must always remember that we live with DNA that was built for a time well before the information age. When we had to look for information. Today we are overwhelmed by information and need mental training to avoid drowning in it. Today, instead, we need to focus, find methods to block out information, screen and choose what is important and find ways to rest our brains.

Together with my fantastic adventure colleague Annelie, I’ve guided silent retreats in various forms for several years. During these retreats, we help people explore what happens when they break the most common pattern there is: talking and using the mobile. The retreat varies in length between one and ten days, but each one has similar arrangements and follows the same principles. The experience is based on the meditation technique Vipassana, but we have modified it to more easily meet the modern practitioner and lower the threshold to participate. For example, participants do not need to sleep on concrete beds with wooden pillows, they do not have to go up at four o'clock and scour the toilets and they do not sit in meditation for several hours in a row. We also let the participants drink coffee and practice light yoga. However, the first thing that happens at the retreat is that the participants' mobile phones are collected. They must also abstain from other technical aids, television, books, notepads or drinking alcohol. Instead, they are offered guided meditation, yoga classes and workshops on mental training in various forms. Everyone lives in single rooms, is served vegetarian food and spend time in nature.

The purpose of the retreat is never for the participants to become more introverted or less communicative. The goal is, on the contrary, to make room for reality outside them, by becoming more true and grounded by their inner reality. By meeting oneself, one becomes stronger in meeting others.

What also happens is that our universe becomes anything but silent. When we can no longer spend our energy by talking, it builds up within us. Suddenly we hear our own thoughts more clearly and we notice the details of sounds all around us. Our retreats are located in quiet places; it would be unbearable with the sounds of high traffic, screeching salon music or rattling crowds. But they are always located in places where there are the sounds of people. Being in silence yourself and observing people is extremely useful. It is only when we hear how noisy talk can be, how much chatter that just runs out of people's mouths. Talk that doesn't mean anything but kidnaps the air and the attention of others in sheer thoughtlessness.

How we talk, how much, how focused and how much air and space we offer others says so much about how we think (or don't think). Our thoughts are reflected in our way of talking. Many words, and few breaths, are a sign of a cluttered mind. To discipline one’s talk is to discipline one’s thinking. When we have the opportunity to think something through to the end, to complete a thought, it becomes calmer within us and the pulse stabilizes. We also become more present in meetings with others, more efficient in our assignments and more consciously present with others – in such moments as eating, exercise, movement, driving in the car, cooking and playtime.

Being able to put events and situations into perspective and being able to choose thoughts of gratitude are powerful thinking tools. You could say that the great mental mindfulness muscle is your ability to make choices; identifying that you have choices, and acting on them. The opposite is what we call learned helplessness, when we do not think we can affect our situation, when we no longer think it matters what we do, we are heading into a state of depression.

Visualisation

The brain has an amazing ability to travel forward and backward in time, and it can imagine and paint up scenarios we have never been to before. The brain does not always have the ability to distinguish between what you really experienced and what you only fantasized about, in this case it is an asset. The clearer you can see a scenario in front of you, the more likely you are to act on it. Therefore, it helps to fantasize new positive versions of the future. Visualize what you want to achieve. See yourself doing it. Make the picture as clear as possible, play with it. Who is there? How do you feel? How does that sound? Remember that the brain has limited space for conscious traffic: the more positive thoughts you think, the less space there is for the negative and vice versa. Go back to your visualization every day.

When your thoughts get pictures it means that you engage much larger parts of the brain.  And it also usually means that you add feelings and emotions to the idea. When a thought engages more aspects of being human, it awakens potential within you. The potential, which is in there all the time, is often hindered by thoughts. But when you create pictures for your future, they are erasing the old idea, and a new one is taking shape. This is partly because the vision center has a strong relationship with the nervous system. If you can show a new image for the nervous system, the body can usually act fairly immediately according to the new behavior. There are a number of studies that confirm the powerful nature of internal visualisation.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of life. One way to be present in the moment, to be able to observe your own thinking from a meta perspective and to a greater extent choose which thoughts you want to act on. Mindfulness training creates a space, a distance, between thoughts and the impulse to act on them. In this space you have the opportunity to choose - thought, direction and pace. You can experience the present as it is, or give in to your thoughts on what it is like or should be. It is in this space, you can constantly learn something new.

When you become good at being in the present - in a non-valuing and more open way - you can to a greater extent choose your life. You can distinguish between thoughts that are helpful and those that are not. You can regulate fear, rephrase stress, and act smarter in the moment. Above all, you can choose what to focus on. And what you focus on becomes your reality.

1. Note your thoughts

Every time you do something that does not require as much thought, such as peeling potatoes, dishes or walking, take the opportunity to notice what thoughts you have. Get to know your mind, be curious about how it sounds within you. Pay attention without valuing. Thoughts are just thoughts ... Just let the thoughts exist, without acting on them. See if there is any thought you would like to turn down the volume on, or someone you would like to give more space. By becoming conscious you increase the possibility of influencing how it sounds within you.

2. Relax

Create a natural space every day for that relaxation. Even if you think you are not stressed, it is a good idea to regularly sit down for a while and just focus on your breathing. Disconnect thoughts and check in with yourself. Let everything be as it is for a while, without having to change anything. Just sit for a moment with your breath.

An alternative is to switch on movements. Do yoga or take a walk in the nature. Most importantly, you turn off the thought spin and devote yourself to just breathing and resting in the now.

3. Do a body scan

Do a body scan, it's the easiest way to let go of thoughts and focus attention on the body and what it says. Sit in a meditative state, and go through one body part at a time. Focus first on the foot, then the calf and so on, until the whole body gets some love and attention. It is an excellent exercise, for example, when worry and thoughts prevent you from falling asleep.

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