Thought cascades

I found myself with a little extra time yesterday between commitments. I took advantage of the time to meditate for a bit. It got me wondering about “thought cascades” and the way in which our minds work.

Thoughts appear during meditation, like bubbles. Jon Kabat-Zinn called them in one of his meditations “secretions of the mind.” They just float or bubble up. We don’t need to get rid of them or feel frustrated that they keep coming. We just need to notice them.

One thought leads to another…and another…and another. Really the mind can be quite tedious when we observe it.  “Why can’t it take a damn rest?” I wonder, but this is typically when I am trying to get to sleep. I am a lot more compassionate with myself during my daytime meditations, apparently.

thought cascades.JPG
Photo credit link

Thought cascades tend to produce certain emotional states as well. If we find ourselves ruminating on a problem, or a stressful situation, we bring ourselves back to the breath and the sensations in our bodies. I often notice my shoulders have tightened up or my jaw is clenched. I did not used to notice that. It took pairing yoga with meditation for me to understand it. 

On Monday I had an interview for a new contract that excites me. I tried to notice my thought cascades during the interview and afterward. I realized my mind creates a trail of expectations, assumptions and details, making up stories freely as it tumbles along. At least I know from Dr. Brené Brown’s work that this is perfectly normal. In fact, our brains reward us with dopamine as soon as we “tell” an internal story, whether or not it is actually true.

This is why meditation has become such an important daily practice for me. For over two years, I have spent at least 5 minutes a day on this practice. Actually for the past year, it was much more than that, but I started small to make it do-able.

Thought cascades for someone with particular neuro-diverse conditions can be especially problematic. Most people seem to have “brakes” for ruminative thought loops. Not everyone’s neuro-chemistry supports this easy compartmentalization. What is amazing is that focus can be built and nurtured, even for people like me! Meditation is a tool for doing that.

Now the cascades are quiet and flowing. Sometimes they are turbulent and rushing. Every time I bring myself back INTO my body, feel the aliveness in my hands, my feet or my heart, thoughts slow down and the volume descends. There is no greater gift than being able to dial it all down when needed.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Breathless

Have you ever finished a book and it left you a little breathless and dizzy, with its story and insights revealed? And then you know you will read it again, because there were passages that moved you so deeply, but you had to keep reading to get to the end, because it was so compelling?

That is what Tara Westover’s book Educated did for me. It is a powerful memoir about leaving home and what happens when we leave behind the strange beliefs our families may have tried to instill in us.

Though my own life story is very different from Tara’s, the idea of leaving behind a patriarchal family structure is probably familiar to a lot of women of my generation. I am grateful I had no brothers, and endured no significant violence that I remember. But the denial and rage and depression that occurs when you realize you have been “gas-lighted” by half your family is palpable.

Educated photo of book cover

It was a little like when I first read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, another powerful story. When we are little children and we are in the care of our parents, we must believe in them. It is our first act of faith, in a way. Babies and children are vulnerable and dependent. To reject our families means likely death. If they reject us, possibly it may take decades (and probably a lot of therapy) to recover our sense of worthiness.

As we become adults, and learn to think for ourselves, we can sometimes reconcile the pain and mental illness they may have lived through. As we begin to take on a new perspective on the world, and perhaps have different opportunities available (especially as women in comparison to our mothers), we realize their views do not have to be our views.

In 1974, the year I was born, the equal credit opportunity act was passed. Before that a woman could not necessarily open a credit card or bank account on her own. Now I would scoff if someone asked me my husband’s income to apply for my own account.

Educated… yes. More of us are educated. I am grateful for the privilege of being born at a time and in a place where this is an option. And I am so very grateful that Tara had the courage to share her story. It reminds me a bit of the Mark Nepo poem (Breaking Surface) I posted last April.

I am still a bit breathless at the beautiful rendering of her story. What books have left you breathless lately?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

TBT – There is no “better” you

**This is an edited post from January 2018. It is a relevant reminder for the workshop I have coming up on the 27th.**

I have noticed a lot of flyers in fitness centers and around bulletin boards that invite people to “become a better you.” I really dislike this slogan.

You are just fine the way you are. Right now. No exceptions. You are worthy of love, compassion and forgiveness. Just because you are human. In this moment, and always.

Are you perfect? No. Are you human? Yes. You are an imperfect human being in the process of growing and becoming, as are we all. And that is a beautiful thing.

Are there some things you wish to change about yourself? Probably. Most of us want to lose weight, make more money, become more patient, perhaps become better partners or spouses. And this is fine. But this does not mean we become “better” as people. If we cannot accept that we are fine, and worthy of love and compassion, in this moment and always, it will be much harder to grow and change.

What bothers me about this “better” you is that it implies the you RIGHT NOW is not enough. But that is never true. You are enough. You are doing your best and that is always enough. You are worthy. Always.

You will not become “better” if you lose weight. Perhaps your health will be better, and you will have less discomfort in your body and more vitality if you lose weight. Those are all worthy goals, and by all means strive for those goals if they are important to you. But you must accept yourself and who you are in this very moment to allow transformation to occur.

journey
Photo credit link

Does that sound paradoxical? I thought so at first when I encountered this idea. If I’m not striving and trying and working toward it, how can I be “better” at it? Certainly skills take practice, and many of us learned that working hard is the answer, or the way to riches, or even the way to God.

When you have goals that are important to you, absolutely you should work for them. Put the time in every day if you can. But realize that there is no “better” version of you that awaits. You may feel better about your skills, and you may accomplish great things. Wonderful! Congratulations!

But the YOU remains the same, lovable and worthy. Flawed and imperfect. And marvelously human, adaptable and growing all the time. If you accept all parts of yourself, the good and the bad, you begin to feel such compassion for yourself and others as well. 

No person is better than another. We are all just doing our best, even if it seems like not everyone is trying. We actually are doing the best that we know. Try this belief on for a bit. When I really came to know this as true, it gave me so much peace. And ironically, my thinking and emotions evolved as I embraced this acceptance.

You are the BEST YOU right now. And that is enough. Let go of the struggle to become better. Accept who you are. Love and cherish your essence.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Saturday Share – Happy 1st Birthday to If I Could Tell You How It Feels — Untangled

One year ago today my second book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels was published. It has been a wonderful year of new connections, and opportunities. I have a tremendous feeling of satisfaction that my books have been a source of information, relatability, and comfort for survivors of trauma, someone living with a mental or […]

via Happy 1st Birthday to If I Could Tell You How It Feels — Untangled

In honor of the brave work of Alexis Rose, I wanted to share her post today. This is a testament to the power of owning our stories and our healing.

Peace,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Drama vs math – on financial clarity

On Tuesday I was set to do my semi-monthly financial accounting. I did not want to do it, and I could feel myself procrastinating and avoiding it as much as possible. So I practiced something I have learned to help me figure out my thoughts when I am having trouble moving forward – a thought download in my journal.

Our thoughts create our emotions, our emotions drive our actions (or behavior), and our actions are what determine our results. I needed to figure out which thoughts were causing my resistance/discomfort which was driving my avoidance. What I determined that I was creating drama about what the numbers would mean, ahead of the clarity of even knowing them. In the end, my bank balances, investments and credit balances are just math.

I was afraid I would beat myself up for not saving enough, or feel a sense of scarcity as we get to the end of my “runway” as far as getting more income rolling by this point. But then I realized that I am committed to this journey, and while things may be tight for a while, I have a lot of options to consider.

picture of money in hand
Photo credit link

Even before I got the numbers down on paper, I decided to think different thoughts, like: what a blessing it was to have saved up the money to have time off between my job and my new venture. I can also think: I am resilient and always figure out what I need to do next. These thoughts are true, and felt better than the scarcity thoughts I had manufactured.

Once I got the numbers down on paper, and figured out where things stood, I felt so much better. Nothing is worse that feeling of confusion or fogginess about reality, and not being able to make good decisions as a result. I realized, through a bit of self-coaching and compassion toward myself, I could choose not to get caught up in story or the drama my mind was creating.

Now that I am clear on where things stand, I can make better decisions going forward. Looking at the math, and evaluating the situation based on a more generative and abundant mindset was key to getting that task done. I am grateful that I have learned tools for emotional management that will serve me well going forward.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

A yoga evangelist gets serious

I have made a big decision about what I will do for self-development this year, and I am excited to commit to it. Y’all know I am a big fan of yoga. I practice typically 4-6 times a week for an hour or more each session.

YogaNorth.JPG
YogaNorth link

Yoga and meditation have changed my brain. These practices have transformed the way I experience my life. They have helped me live with more intention, get grounded in my own body, and helped me manage my mind and my emotions. Though I still have an active (and what I call “playful”) mind, it is far less scattered and anxious than it used to be. For that I am intensely grateful.

The 200-hour yoga teacher training involves seven monthly 3-day weekend all-day sessions over a period of 6 months starting in March. Taking this study to a deeper level with Yoga North after many years of consistent practice is exactly right for me now.

I am designing a leadership training program for women that will involve meditation and/or yoga as core practices. I really cannot overstate the benefit in terms of self-awareness, self-compassion, intuition and wisdom about our bodies and minds.

The application is going in today. I am committed!

Is there anything you have been considering that you are getting serious about in 2019? 

Happy last day of 2018! Hope the next year brings you love and great new adventures!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com