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

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – Throw away the manuals

How many of you have “manuals” for how other people should behave? 

Whether they are family members, or co-workers, or just other people encounter during your day, we tend to have “manuals” for how we want them to behave. Here are some of my example thoughts related to this principle:

“They shouldn’t talk about people in such a mean way.”

“He should not behave that way.”

“They should say something nice instead of always criticizing.”

Those are some negative “manual” thoughts that sometimes appear in my own head. But they are actually false! How do I know that? Because they DO talk about people, he DOES behave that way, and they DO criticize.

We have no control over others’ behavior. But sometimes we think “if only they would behave differently then we could be happy.” \

Photo credit link 

This is actually a position of powerlessness. When we realize that we can respond to people from our own cleaned-up thoughts about the situation, we free ourselves. We cannot control the world. (Those of us who are control freaks find this a little hard to accept sometimes.)

Separate out what a person is saying (or how they are acting) from the thoughts and interpretations in your head. Then you realize it is not related to you, it is more about THEM.

This does not mean you should be a “doormat” or that you should not make requests of them (like “please stop”). That is totally fine. But you have to accept that people will choose to behave however they behave. Sometimes you need to have proper boundaries if they are mistreating you. 

But the only person who’s thoughts, emotions and actions you can manage are yours. This is incredibly liberating, the more you practice awareness of your own thoughts and feelings, the more you take back the true power in your life. 

Is there anyone in your life that is bugging you because they are not following your manual? Consider whether it’s time to trash that manual. Thanks to Brooke Castillo for first teaching me this principal. It has been a game-changer. 

Throwback Thursday – responding vs reacting

The following is an edited blog from February 2018, pre-scheduled while I travel. Good reminders as we embark on the journey.

***

One of the benefits of practicing meditation and yoga consistently is that it teaches you the difference between response versus reaction.

To me, I define the difference in these as temporal, relating to time, and emotional, relating to reactivity. When we slow things down, in our breathing, our movement and our thinking, we can often realize when our reaction to a stimulus may be out of proportion.

For example, when someone make a remark I may perceive as offensive, my first reaction may be to get angry. However, if I give the words a moment to sit there, without immediately responding, I may consider the perspective of the speaker. I may pause and realize that they words they have said are not about me (or someone I love) but they are about them.

brain on vacation
Photo credit link – Ted Talks

In fact, this practice has been so powerful for me, because I know my tendency has been to react, to say something back, or to at least indulge in anger or negativity. But as I have started to consider what I can do to act with more love and less fear in every situation, I realize I have a choice about how I respond.

This is true in meditation and yoga. When we realize there is a little discomfort in the body, maybe in the lower back or neck, we have a choice about how to respond. We can observe and watch the feeling. Sometimes it intensifies momentarily, and then dissipates. We can move and adjust if needed or try to breathe into that area.

This is contrary to the speed of our culture right now. We want more, we want faster, we do not wait to wait for things. Everything is available on demand, and we get frustrated when we have to wait for more than a few moments for a download. So we become conditioned to react, not to wait a moment and respond. Hey, I get it! I am the same way.

But what if we tried to move a little counter to what the culture tells us and we move more slowly and deliberately? We say no to having too many options open, and we take more time to respond mindfully instead of reacting. We improve our relationships, because we may ask clarifying questions instead of getting upset over a remark someone made.

It is worth trying, just taking a breath or two when something seems to “trigger” a response in you. Notice where the emotion lands in your body. Decide if you want to respond or let it go. I am far from perfect at this but I am playing with it more, and forgiving myself for the times when I did not have this skill.

It may have a radical impact on how you interact with the world. Let me know how it goes!

cristy@meximinnsotana.com

 

Throwback Thursday: Embodying a new self

This is an edited post from February of 2018. Reading it makes me want to dig Joe Dispenza‘s book off my shelf again. Good juicy learning about how to make changes in our lives.

***

I have written before about the idea that there is no “better” you – that self-acceptance and self compassion are the key to any big changes we want to make in our lives.

Paradoxically, we all grow, develop and change over time, and we do become “better” at certain things. It is not that we become better people. I hold the belief that all of us, just by virtue of being born, are worthy of love, compassion and self-regard. However, we strive to become more of who we are at the core, at a soul and spirit level, that identity is typically muted or hidden in an effort to be more acceptable to others.

Right now I am reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza and it is blowing my mind. The title is provocative to me because it goes against the advice we are typically given: just be yourself. While I agree this usually means we should not try to be “someone else,” most of us still yearn to grow and change and evolve to a “next version” of ourselves.

breaking the habit

We yearn for enlightenment, for peace, for a sense of ease in our being. But Dispenza explains how our habitual thoughts become encoded by our neuro-chemical and physical body over time. The mind and body work together to create our reality, and re-create what we have known and experienced usually in the past.

It is only when we become aware of our thoughts, and how they create emotions, which are “coding” for what they become in the body, that we can actively change the reality we are creating.

Dispenza uses the field of quantum physics to challenge our previous assumptions about a Newtonian universe in which there are physical causes and effects, and thus explores the notion of potentials. I really enjoy his explanations of how we can create changes in our lives to move from thinking to doing to being. Though I am only half way through the book, the insight has already exploded my mind in terms of the possibilities.

I have had great skepticism for the self-help idea of manifesting, though I have encountered it plenty of times in the literature I read. I must admit – I am a questioner and anything that is too “woo woo” for my researcher brain is typically dismissed as fluff. But as I consider the neuroscience behind the principles that Dispenza explains, now I understand the theoretical basis for how this may work.

My experiences with meditation, and understanding experientially how my thoughts create my feelings, and how feelings lead to action (or non-action) these concepts are leading me to wild new ideas about how we can create the lives we want. I still have not yet moved to the stage of practice and implementing these ideas fully, but I am sure to experiment with these as I embrace changes in my life going forward.

Hasta luego, amigos!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesdays

A friend of mine recently suggested I implement another weekly feature in keeping with the idea of “rhythm” for my writing. Right now I do a Saturday Share and a Sunday haiku as regular weekly posts. I love the idea of Wellness Wednesday!

I had some trouble connecting to the internet from my hotel from Mexico this morning because the wi-fi has been a bit spotty and very slow, so I will save the content to be launched next week. But in terms of why Wednesday and why Wellness, I will provide a couple of thoughts here.

First: Wednesday is commonly known as “hump day”. Once we’ve gotten through Wednesday, we are on the downhill side of making it through a work week for most of us. Sadly, the implication of this is that we must struggle to get through a work week only to be released into the world to do what we want. I suppose if more of us loved what we were doing every day, and had meaningful work, maybe we would not be so eager for the weekend.

light and relief
Photo credit link

Or maybe we would, because there is an intensity to the work week that we typically do not experience on weekends. It is okay to look forward to that break and to our leisure time, although wishing away a work week probably means we ought to reconsider the work we are doing.

So, smack-dab in the middle of the week is Wednesday!

What better time to remind ourselves of healthy practices and strategies and to check it to see how we are doing on cultivating these habits?

Personal wellness and well-being are the cornerstone of a life well-lived, and they are achieved through conscious choices and daily actions. Planning is usually required to make sure we are able to schedule those activities and habits that keep us on track. But when we make this commitment, we gain so much energy, freedom and joy.

It starts with our thinking, which drives our emotions, and thus determines our actions and therefore our results.  I look forward to sharing a few of my n=1 experiments here (as I have done in the past) and hopefully hearing from you on your successes in this area as well.

Cheers!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Lies we tell ourselves

Last week after my coaching session, I began considering my the original motivations for entering into this process. One big one is that I want to make a career change this year. Another one is that I want more alignment and intimacy in my relationships, including my relationship with myself.

I have been doing a lot of work on this areas in the past couple of years, and I am proud of the progress I have made. But there are always more layers to peel back, it seems, and I was kind of shocked to catch myself in a lie that I’d been telling to myself, and also speaking out loud.

The lie was “my job is killing me and I may need to leave it.” In truth, my job is not killing me. My job is paying me good money. The tasks I am responsible for are becoming less palatable to me, that is true. But it is MY THOUGHTS about the job that are causing pain, not the job itself. When I admit that to myself, I feel less desperate and graspy about finding something new. And I dig deeper to find the sources of that pain, and unearth a more true set of facts that are driving my unhappiness about the current reality.

It occurred to me though: how did I not catch that lie to myself before? One of the homework assignments I am working on with my coach is to review my “Mary the Martyr” voice in my head that plays sometimes when I am making decisions. In working on the dreaming assignment, I realized I was a little “blocked” at even coming up with dreams in some areas. I had a whole list of things I am supposed to do, supposed to want. All those (probably parental figure) voices say to: “you should be grateful for what you have. Wanting more is greedy.”

fingers crossed
Photo credit link

But wanting more is what we do as humans. For me, it is not always in the material sense. I want more in the sense that I want satisfaction and fulfillment in the work I do. My husband and I eventually want to buy a house. I want to go on that 1-year anniversary honeymoon that we started planning last year. I never stopped wanting that, but I put in on a shelf thinking “I need to do the responsible thing” instead of getting what I want.

What I was doing was probably channeling all of those “good girl” admonitions I learned my whole life, rather than being honest about what I really want this year. I’d also created some internal and relationship drama about needing to find a new job by this fall in order to put off this goal that I’d dismissed as frivolous and unimportant. But when I considered the reality of the desire, and wanting to do this with my husband as an experience we plan and do together, I re-assessed the timeline with regard to job change.

Granted, there are always short-term and long-term goals we have in our lives. Sometimes we have to put off the short term goals because a longer term priority will benefit us in the long run. But when I am honest with myself about how my thoughts interfere with my desires sometimes, it can release a lot of energy.

Last Thursday, as I dug deeper into those thoughts and beliefs that were causing me pain, I realized I have control of some of those thoughts. I can release them, though not without awareness and intention. I started considering other “lies” I may be telling myself, to keep myself from experiencing disappointment, or doing what is expected of me, rather than doing what I believe is right, more aligned with the truth.

Having integrity within ourselves is a powerful source of energy. We are weighed down by the stories we tell ourselves and the excuses we make for our behavior that may not be honest. When we question some of those “usual story-lines” we may realize they are not actually true! They are just habitual thoughts, when, once examined, can be pruned out of our consciousness to make room for more joy and peace.

What about you? You don’t have to tell us all, of course. This is between you and yourself. Are there any lies you are telling yourself that do not serve you?