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

 

 

TBT – Do you have a few minutes?

***This edited blog was originally posted in February 2018***

When we get to February I always feel a surge of optimism. Spring is not so far away now, and those of us who get a little “cabin fever” this time of the year start noticing more light in the evenings.

In February of 2017 I started a habit of daily meditation. I had meditated before that occasionally. But last year, I committed to a minimum of 5 minutes per day. It was a do-able goal, and I count my yoga sessions as part of my practice, so with 3 classes a week, that made the goal easier as well. In February of 2019 I will celebrate 2 years of daily meditation.

It has changed my life, particularly since I have struggled with a.d.d. in the past. Meditation has helped me calm my mind and become less reactive to the “bouncing” thoughts. I can observe them and not follow them. I notice when I am caught in a story that I am spinning, and start to question whether that is even true. I hold less judgment about my mind, and more curiosity.

To those who have been thinking about starting a practice, I encourage you to start small. Literally commit to only 2 minutes the first time, focus on your breathing. It may not be easy at first! Add a minute a day, and see how this changes the quality of your days overall. It may take a few weeks before you really start to notice benefits, so give it at least 30 days.

zen flower
Photo credit link

People used to tell me I needed to have at least 15 minutes. That was a barrier. I could not imagine how I would fit that in every day. Now I average a lot more than that. It is not always easy, and sometimes I feel “too restless” to want to do it. But those are the times I am most likely to benefit, I now realize.

Last fall I read Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body (Goleman and Davidson). For a clinical researcher, I loved learning about experiments, past and present to demonstrate the value of meditation. The authors actually critique some of their early studies, the bias and the lack of proper controls. They review the field and conclude that, even with some flawed studies in the beginning, reliable science is beginning to emerge on the benefits of meditation.

If silent meditation is not your cup of tea, there are many guided meditations available at the Insight Timer app that I use. Jon Kabat Zinn has a book called Mindfulness for Beginners with some guided meditations that I really like also. Another resource that was great for me about 2 years ago when I first wanted to commit to practice was Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

For those of you who have a regular practice, I would love to hear how you got started. As I like to say about sleep, doing more of it is like a super-power! If only I had known when I was younger. I know now. So I will continue to encourage people to try it, and see what works for them.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Be the wordless person in the world for a moment

I borrowed the above title from a line in a guided meditation and I wish I could remember which one so I can properly attribute it. Nonetheless, it reminds me that building more space into my weekly time for reflection and writing my own work is more challenging than I thought. I am seldom the wordless person. I have lots of words. And I share them freely.

new journal - be bold
My brand new journal, given to me as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.

When you write your “morning pages” in your journal, you are the only one who can give yourself praise for getting your work done. Social media and the clicks and likes can be an addictive little “hit” for affirmation. As a writer, I write every day no matter what. It is like oxygen for me. But I am susceptible to that buzz that comes from others receiving the work well.

I am comforted to know that there is brain chemistry and neurobiology behind this, of course. Those clicks and likes produce a little hit of dopamine in your brain, and because we are social creatures, approval is important to us at a primal level. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is very natural. Please have some compassion for yourself if you worry sometimes about what other people think. Being part of a tribe or pack was how the mammals of today survived.

As a person who loves words, and who loves the ease of publishing that blogs can offer, it is even harder for me to be the “wordless” person. I joke to my husband that this blog is my little soapbox, so that I can express my ideas freely without subjecting him to all of my opinions. 😉  So he is grateful that it exists.

Some days, I am better off going into observer mode rather than writing publicly. It reminds me of meditation, noticing what is going on in my body, and in my mind, while not attaching to it. Emotions come and go, as thoughts do. Ideas float through and sometimes I want to grab a pen. But I sit, and allow things to flow through. My ego-ic mind can be quite impressed with my thoughts sometimes. But my higher self, the watcher, just observes and allows. No thought is better than another, they just are.

Is it challenging to be the wordless person? Heck yeah, more than I ever realized.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Releasing and integrating

On New Year’s Day this past week I attended a 2-hour yoga workshop in which I had the opportunity to reflect a bit on the past year. After some journal writing and reflection, we did a yoga practice and then finished with a meditation practice.

I enjoyed the opportunity to “digest” a bit of the past year, to celebrate it and to consider my strengths, or any limiting beliefs. In the final meditation the word/concept “integrate/integration” kept emerging for me, and variations on that word: integrity, integral, etc. I started thinking about the root of that word (think of integer) which is to make whole.

what do you need to release

That seems appropriate, since this past year felt in many ways like a dismantling and releasing of what was no longer serving me. Then on Sunday I had another impulse to de-clutter, and to organize in my office (not something that comes naturally to me) so I followed it.

I allowed myself some time and space to consider the objects and books I have collected. What is that path of curiosity telling me? Which things can I can release? I have tried following the Kon Mari approach to do this all in one big project (which can take up to 6 months, she writes). But I have found I follow more of a spiral or cyclical path when it comes to releasing things. And that is just fine.

Releasing is necessary because we hold onto so much that we no longer need. This can be physical stuff, but more often it is out-dated stories we tell ourselves. I find that is the more “sticky” of our stuff. It is easy to give bags of unused and unneeded things to Goodwill. But how often do we enter into our deep consciousness to see what is floating around in there, and question if we want to keep it there? 

When I did a coaching series with Elizabeth Dickinson this past fall, she was able to identify a few of the beliefs (or stories) I had carried about money that did not match my current reality. What an amazing gift, to release an old story that was holding me back. At one point, that story may have had a purpose. But it was at least a decade out-of-date. So I started trying on a different story, reinforcing a new belief that serves me better.

What is it you may need to release in order to thrive in your life? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

600 days

Hi Friends,

This post will be short and sweet. I just want to acknowledge and celebrate my 600th consecutive day of meditation and/or yoga according to my Insight Timer app. Yay! I guess I can count that habit as a consistent one, the practice of being mindful of thoughts, emotions, my body and sometimes the space around me as well.

There is probably a Buddhist admonition not to take pride in one’s meditation. Something about ego and all of that. But I am proud of establishing the habit and I am not Buddhist. So I am going to own it and celebrate! Cheers!

What daily or weekly habits serve you best in your life? 

cristy@meximinnesota.com

600 days

Throwback Thursday – This moment, this breath

The following is an edited post from this blog originally posted in March 2018. It seemed appropriate as I stay as fully present as possible during my travels, noticing as much as I can around me. ‘Hope you are having a great week.

***

All we have is this moment. The past exists only in our memories. And the future exists only in our imagination.

Neither the past nor the future exist, except in our minds.

All we have is this moment, right now, anchored to the body by this breath, and our awareness of being HERE.

By awakening to this moment, developing the awareness to keep coming back here again and again, we develop gratitude and wonder for the abundance around us.

People and companies from all channels, from t.v., and the internet, try to sell us happiness. As though it could be found in a can of Coke, the latest shoes, or car or whatever accessory they urge us to buy and consume.

In the meantime, when we are aware that nothing outside of us can bring us true joy, and that we can tap an inner well of joy at any time, we are truly free.

We give thanks for our existence, for that miracle of being born in a time when we can create, as a species, more than we will ever need to survive.

We become conscious of over-using resources of the earth without regard for consequences. By not cultivating ecological harmony for future generations, we short-change gifts we received with no work on our part. Many were granted just by being born on this earth.

As we sit in stillness and awareness of this moment, let us realize this great gift. Let us restore and heal our mother earth and honor her for how she has fed us and sheltered us. We thank her for granting all the raw materials we need to apply our human ingenuity and work to transform into tools for better living.

She has not failed us and continues to give generously. Let us pledge never to fail her.

divine feminine
Photo credit link – The Divine Feminine and Return of the Sacred Wisdom of Creation

Love and blessings,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

(a prayer/meditation to honor the divine feminine, handwritten by mexi minnesotana on March 1, 2018, transcribed March 2, 2018.)