Tag Archives: #mindfulness

The Elephant in Your Brain

Image generated by author on nightcafe ai.

Don’t think of an elephant! You’re thinking of an elephant, right? And no matter how hard you try not to think of an elephant, that elephant is still there, isn’t it? What if Bob Newhart shouted, “Stop thinking of an elephant or I’ll bury you alive with an elephant!” Didn’t work, did it?

What would I rather not think about? It’s a long list. But I’ll go with the most recent: I finally was going to see Morrissey in concert, and well, golly but he cancelled. I knew there was a chance he would, so I suppressed my anxiety and excitement. When he cancelled, I felt this rush of rage, and almost relief. I’m not in the depths of despair over all this. But I am a bit sad. That concert had been the elephant I was trying not to think of.

We all have those elephants we don’t want to think of. That big party to host. That phone call. Bills. That elephant grows in your mind until you pay attention to it. When we stop struggling to not think of it and give in, pay attention to it, and do what we need to, the elephant disappears.

Carl Jung, a pioneer of psychology and psychiatry, thought that we all had a conscious self and a shadow self that was the opposite of our conscious self. He encouraged his patients to find that shadow that drove them to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, and let it out to play a little, so to speak. He used art, exercise, hallucinogens, dance etc to help his patients explore what their shadow was trying to tell them. So in a safe, relaxing, and supervised setting they paid attention to that elephant they didn’t want to think of, before it took over their lives. Enough of his patients successfully recovered through these methods that we still use them.

Sometimes the elephants were are trying not to think of are like the shadow selves of Jung’s patients. They can be terrifying, deeply sad, lonely, or enraging thoughts. But when we try to push them away, they only grow until you can barely not think of them. They are taking over.

What if you just made a little space for your elephant, shadow, thoughts and feelings? If you could calm yourself down, relax, and begin to feel safe around your elephant, what do you think could happen? Bad feelings are reminders to us to pay attention, just like good feelings are then our rewards.

The past, the future are the same in that they do not exist. The thoughts we have about them are like air. They cannot hurt us. Our brains are spitting up these thoughts because it really wants us to pay attention to them. Not by resisting, but by feeling calm and safe in the present enough to allow them to just be, do we win. The way to stop thinking about the elephant is by letting ourselves think of the elephant for a moment.

So, going back to my disappointment about the concert, my stressball of sadness had to be reckoned with. Little ticked. Mellow has been harshed. But I am not going to stop listening to my favorite singer/songwriter or his band. It’s some of my favorite music. So I put on my Smiths/Morrissey playlist, and did some Molly Ringwald dancing. I felt sad with the sad songs.Β  And was grateful someone sang these dramatic lyrics about everyday troubles with that swooning voice. I was happy. The elephant was gone.

That’s obviously a minor example. But if we truly learn to calm down, feel safe and in the present enough that we can make a little room for our big elephants. Then we can heal. Then we can entertain them for a moment, but then show them the door.

NamastΓ© you legends.

-JL βœŒπŸΌβ€οΈπŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œπŸ–€πŸ€πŸ€ŽπŸ––πŸΌπŸŒ»

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Buy me a coffee, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fuel the good fight.

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount:

$3.00
$5.00
$10.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount:

$

Thanks for your contribution!

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonateDonate

Got a COMMENT? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, TAP the Star LIKE button below. LIKE and SHARE on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter!


Sitting with Discomfort. What can we learn by looking at our thoughts?

Embracing one’s brokenness with love. (Made with nightcafe ai image generator.)

After last week’s post, I thought I ought to qualify my neuroses worship. Yeah. It’s good to laugh at ourselves for our most difficult bits. I may laugh at my social anxiety for what a dork I am, but what if I stopped and just observed me being anxious for a few minutes? What might I learn? How could that help?

Well, for a start, I can stop being my thoughts. If we get a charley horse, we don’t shout, “Ah! I am a charley horse!” We say we “have a charley horse.” (Now I’m really curious why this is called a charley horse…OK. Turns out it’s from baseball.) So why do we say, “I am anxious?” Not, “I have anxious thoughts?” HMMMMMM!? Question this we must.

Sorry upfront for speaking the “M” word. Mindfulness has been co-opted by the corporate world to “incentivize” those folks who are overworked, underpaid, and/or without proper health care. Wellness as free pizza day. But that doesn’t negate the actual benefits mindfulness habits can reveal to us.

Mindfulness really only requires one thing. A point of concentration. Think of this as an anchor. We may drift from it, but when we wander, we can always return to that point. Mindfulness in meditation mainly focuses on the breath, observing an object, sense, or repeating a word or sound. It can even be noting the sensations in the body.

But we can practice mindful anything. We can take mindful walks. We may focus on the breath, the sensations of walking, and what we can sense or observe. We simply pay attention to one, or shift between senses. If our minds wander, we keep returning to the anchor.

The point is not to “stop our minds from wandering.” That’s what brains do. So, when we discover our minds have meandered off, note this without judging. Either the wandering or the thought, then return to the anchor. This is what strengthens the mind, helps us keep calm, undistracted, and in the moment.

Anxiety is intrusive, stressful, and spiraling thoughts, often about the future. If we find ourselves anxious about some paperwork or some hypothetical scenario of doom, this is when we note and observe this feeling. If we can continually keep pulling our brains back to our anchor in the present, the more easily we can remain safely and calmly moored.

So, instead of spending our time worrying, the quicker we get that paperwork done. Then no more worry. And if we can look calmly at our hypothetical scenario of doom, we might discover what is really at the root of that feeling. Overtime, we will get familiar with it so it has less and less of a grip over us and our lives. We may even laugh at it in blogs.

As I said, we can do just about anything mindfully. Coloring is fun. Simply keep putting down colors in a way we like. Playing an instrument requires mindfulness because it is time based. Have to maintain the rhythm, which requires being fully present in the moment.

I like yoga, besides the health benefit, it requires concentration on many things at once. The breath, balance, proper form, activating or relaxing certain muscles make me feel like I am juggling my own body. Lots to keep track of. Yoga has the added benefit of letting me feel where I an holding pain or tension in my body, and release it.

Sometimes in yoga — or any mindfulness practice — we may discover an old hurt or wound. We may suddenly find ourselves crying over something we had forgotten, but that has haunted us in some other form like anxiety or depression for years. And that is when we get to know ourselves a lot more.

Mindfulness also provides us with tools to deal with those discoveries. Practices involving self-love, forgiveness, gratitude (sorry “G” word), and compassion all help us put back together the pieces of ourselves that are broken.

Again, we could practice mindful dish washing or toothbrushing. The object is to keep bringing our wandering minds back around to our anchor. Each time we do this, we are working that brain muscle. Each time we get a little stronger, learn a bit more about ourselves. Then we can gently handle what we learn so that we can be calmer, happier, better, and more compassionate people. And we may end up with a new skill.

My yoga practice improves every time I practice. Even when the actual practice goes badly. Especially then. That’s why it’s called practice. [Gah! AI meme.] The same goes for basically anything “you put your mind to.” So pick a thing, any thing. Put aside a little time aside regularly for your thing, see what you learn, and if you can’t learn to laugh just a little more more at your inner dork.

NamastΓ© you legends.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌπŸ§˜

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Buy me a coffee, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fuel the good fight.

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount:

$3.00
$5.00
$10.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount:

$

Thanks for your contribution!

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonateDonate

Got a COMMENT? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, TAP the Star LIKE button below. LIKE and SHARE on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter!


Hot Enough for Ya? My Late Summer Check In.

The magnificent desolation of the marshes on the Harriet Tubman Trail to Freedom.

Europeans get it. Working in August is inhuman. Today is the first day I got back from walking my dog that we didn’t both need to lay somewhere cool and eat ice cubes for a few hours. Instead it was lovely, overcast, breezy, and a chilly 78 degrees!

In order to keep my mind from wandering to the theme song to Lawrence of Arabia during the last month of brain baking heat, I have been practicing walking meditations I find on Spotify. I really enjoy them. And I’m more patient with the heat, Abbey, and myself. I take more in. Engage with Miss Abbey more. I remember to stand up straight.

We generally walk a few blocks to a marina where there is a breeze. There are some water spigots. But otherwise it’s a tease. Water water everywhere, but I can’t jump in! And neither can my dog. But she can count “her” ducks. Make sure they’re all there. Watch over the people fishing.

Summer is usually my best time of year for about every reason. By the end of winter, “olive” is a pleasant way to say I look jaundiced. But put me out in the Sun for fifteen minutes on the first nice day, and I’m well on my way being pulled out of line at airport security.

I am here for my flight.

My hair also starts having fun. Soon I have hair that would fit in on any street corner where Do-wop is being sung. My natural olive oil starts flowing in my veins. I feel healthy again.

Missed pickling this year. But holy hair!

For me, in summer, I take long walks. Play in water. Swim in water. Sit in boats on water. Pull stuff out of the water that I consider eating. (I’ve made my own crayfish that way!) Find cool stuff that is near water. Drink water. I even actively smell water. I should become a dowser.

This summer has been a big change. Some of it is where I now live. It’s technically and kind of actually is the South. One degree below the Mason-Dixon line, and people hunt muskrat in the marshes…to eat. Silly me thought it was crab bait the first time I saw these flayed monstrosities in a local seafood market.

There is also every sort of water bird, bald eagles, turtles, wee water snakes, fish, and crabbing!
Turtle friend.
Crabbing with Stan and Abbey.
Little crabby fellow.
At the nearby produce place, making friends.
Goat friend.

Earlier in the season we got lucky with some great fishing, and even spent some time at the little beaches fishing and getting stung by jellyfish. I had forgotten how much that hurts. And Stan refused to pee on my leg to make the ouchie stop. Romance is dead.

But things slowed down recently because HEAT! Walk out the door at eight in the morning and it’s 97 degrees kind of hot. But I’ve been using the time to think about my writing, plan out the new house better, and become less paranoid and more relaxed again.

After last year’s summer of the insane harassing neighbors, and doing time in a hotel room full of fleas: I needed this. I’ve been doing a lot of work on me. Journalling, meditating, yoga (of course), reading about trauma recovery and about writing has all been inspirational and helped me feel more me than perhaps I ever have.

I also set up my luxurious pool! It’s 8 ft x 3.5 ft. I love it. I retired the 1964 Guild my Dad bought long ago. It’s beautiful, but now she deserves to be prettied up and displayed. I do love playing her replacement. It’s made guitar fun for me again. Music is not my forte, but it’s lovely to play on a summer evening. And playing is very mindful, in the moment thing. So if I feel anxious, I grab it and play.

Overall, it’s been a good summer so far despite the heat. I even finally got Covid, which let me listen to the entire audiobook of I, Claudius. (For the record, Livia is a great character, but in reality she was a powerful and wise woman, and co-ruler with Augustus during Rome’s rise to a stable, well run empire. Just sayin.)

Finally, I am looking forward to the better fishing and crabbing at Summer’s end. And the cheaper camp sites, Abbey being allowed on all the beaches. We’re even getting our little skiff legal and ready to take out now. I suppose though all my American guilt at not laboring at all hours and in all climes was simply resistance to learning that Summer is when we “set” out on the porch, drink sun tea, and give ourselves a break before Autumn’s rush.

It was tough, but someone had to do it. πŸ˜‰

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ¦†πŸŒ…πŸΊπŸ’πŸŸπŸ¦€πŸ§˜

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Buy me a coffee, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fuel the good fight.

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount:

$3.00
$5.00
$10.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount:

$

Thanks for your contribution!

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonateDonate

Got a COMMENT? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, TAP the Star LIKE button below. LIKE and SHARE on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter!


%d bloggers like this: