Would it not be a wonderful thing to have a calm and serene mind through the ups and downs of our daily lives? To have the ability to learn ways in which to stop the constant cascading thoughts (often negative) from arising? Do you sometimes feel that you will never be able to change your way of thinking no matter how hard you try?
There is a beautiful parable about a frog that was aiming to reach the top of a tree. All the other frogs told this frog that it was impossible, and that frog would never reach the top. The frog thought that all of the negative comments were in fact positive encouragement urging her to fulfill her dream, so she reached the top by turning a deaf ear to all of the negativity surrounding her.
We can all resonate with the story of this frog, and I encourage you all to take the lesson of the frog into your own lives. As we progress on our paths towards recognizing our dreams and embracing our full potential in this life, there will always be people telling us we can't, that it will never happen...and the list goes on. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard that throughout my life! I have learned through meditation and mindfulness practices to drown out the outside noise and focus unwaveringly on my goals. We call this in yoga philosophy Dharana, the sixth limb on Sage Patanjali's eight-limb path of Yoga. With this single, pointed concentration and focus, if you put in the time and effort with no external noise deterring you from your goal, the path will lead you to where you have set your intention on going. I invite you all to be like the frog on your paths towards realizing your dreams and welcome this beautiful wisdom into your daily lives. The nine simple steps listed below will enable you to become that frog and help change your mindset to change your life!
- Drowning Out the External Noise
How many of us are constantly receiving unsolicited feedback from family, friends, and colleagues as to our choices in life? It began to dawn upon me recently how much unsolicited feedback we receive from people everyday about our lifestyle choices, what we eat, where we live, who we date, where we travel, what we wear, even down to our choice of hairstyle. If we allow ourselves, we become bombarded by this outside noise constantly, so much so that it begins to drown out our own inner voice and intuition. Throw in modern society, fast-paced lifestyles, and the onslaught of technology and it just gives you a headache trying to keep up with it all! Begin by closing your eyes and engaging a mindfulness of breath exercise where you taking a few deep calming inhales and slow relaxing exhales.
- Knowing Your Personal Truth
So, it really begs the question: how does one maintain sanity (and normal blood pressure!) in this modern age where we have so many endless choices that, sometimes, making a simple choice becomes a stress unto itself? Throw in added external pressure from family and friends and making decisions in life can become so confusing; I have witnessed people more than happy to allow others to make decisions for them to avoid the stress. Some people may think is a great thing, absolving yourself of your responsibility to lead your own life. However, not having your voice heard in even minor life choices can result in lasting blockages being created within you, along with a loss of confidence and the ability to speak your truth—or even losing the ability to know your truth deep within you.
- Tuning in to Your Inner Voice
The next logical question is: how are we able to tune in to our own inner voice? How we do we even hear it amongst all of the outside noise? This is often not an easy process, and one that takes time to develop in order to fully tune in to what is going on within us. How are we able to balance that fine line between tuning into our own inner voice while still respecting and valuing other people's input into our lives and encouraging it in a positive way? It begins with setting boundaries with yourself as to what input you will tolerate from other people and being very clear within yourself of your own personal boundaries. It may help to start journaling or making a list about what things make you feel good in your life and what things tend to have a disempowering effect. It can also help to sit alone in nature while you ponder these thoughts to gain more clarity, and nature always has a wonderful effect of grounding us in our own reality and giving us more clarity on our path. Once you are clear and resolute on your own personal boundaries, you can begin the next step: establishing an open form of dialogue and communication with family and friends where you do not feel disempowered or dejected by their feedback in your life, whether it is welcome or unwelcome.
- Learning to Analyze Your Internal Dialogue
Communication is key to success in life, whether in relationships, with family or friends, or in the workplace. How we communicate enables us to manifest our truth in our lives. The most important part of communication, however, is self-communication, of which many of us are not even aware. People often lament the fact that they do not get the desired responses they want out of situations or from people in their lives, and it all comes back to how we communicate with ourselves. What is your internal dialogue? How do you react when things go wrong or when they go right? Are you dejected at the slightest form of rejection in your life, or do you stand strong and tall in the face of adversity (which is a necessary part of life)? When things are going well, are you overly elated and jubilant about life only to fall very hard when things take a sudden change of direction? Start to become aware of the landscape of your thinking and the thoughts that run through your head on a daily basis. It is through awareness that change is possible, and often we are not even conscious of the constant dialogue going on within our own heads.
- Beginning the Process of Changing the Tape
Most of our emotional responses to situations are learned behavior from our formative years and the development of our brains in the first few years of our lives. Not all of our destructive thoughts come from traumatic events. Oftentimes, it is the repetition of thoughts that stay with us, becoming the landscape of our thinking patterns. Perhaps we tell ourselves constantly that we are not good at something. As a result, what can occur is a learned pattern of behavior of self-defeat and fear. When associations are built in the mind, a stimulus is connected to a thought and the neurons physically connect. Therefore, if one neuron fires the other fires, also, resulting in additional stimuli repeating the thoughts of self-defeat and fear. A single thought does not impact the mind or brain; rather, it is repetition of these thoughts that result in conditioning of the brain to think and react in a certain manner that comes to dominate our minds and lives.
- Knowing that Change Is Possible
The ability of the brain to vary or change its patterns is called plasticity. In the last twenty years, neuroscience has proven the correlation between meditation and regeneration of the brain. Therefore, the good news is that we are able to control the way our mind works if we can control our thoughts, and that all comes back to self-communication and the words that we feed ourselves in each and every moment. It is a process that we call in Yoga philosophy, "becoming the Sakshi (witness)," a silent impartial observer of your mind. It is only when we are aware and present in each and every moment that we begin to be able to observe the internal dialogue that is going on within our own minds. It is only when we become truly aware of our innermost thoughts that results in this conditioning of our minds, that we are able to change our patterns of thinking from negative to positive—and meditation is a proven method of being able to change the way we think. So the next time someone tells you that change is not possible or that you will never achieve your goals, just drown them out and instead go into your place of peace and quiet within where you know that anything is possible!
- Turning Toward Meditation
Meditation is a word that can conjure images of the lotus position and sitting in silence for long periods of time—which, quite frankly, is not accessible to most of us, or especially those who are new to meditation. Most of us are aware of the benefits of having a daily meditation practice in our lives. We have read about it, thought about it, or (for many of us) actually tried to sit down and do it, often without achieving great results. The number one complaint that I receive from my clients is that they have tried meditation before but it just does not see to work for them. We all lead busy lives, and the thought of sitting silently in lotus pose for 30 minutes each day with our monkey mind just does not seem feasible nor quite frankly any fun.
- Learning Why Meditation Is Powerful
On a basic level, meditation practices help calm an overactive brain, which can lead to anxiety and insomnia. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that 40 million Americans aged 18 and up suffer from anxiety disorders—which is 18% of the population. This is a worrying statistic! There is also an increasing reliance on prescription medicine to deal with a lot of these symptoms, unfortunately, can lead to the symptoms being treated without treating the root cause. It is only when we begin the journey into the mind to deal with what is really causing the anxiety, insomnia, or depression that we are then able to release this pain and heal ourselves from within. The benefits to meditating regularly are scientifically proven, and are, of course, endless. After all, who doesn't want peace of mind and inner sanctity in the craziness and constant whirlwind of activity that surrounds us? Science further verifies that cultivating compassion and mindful awareness in our lives and living in the present enables us to transform our relationship with ourselves also and become our own best friend. It all sounds so good in theory, but practice and results always seem the most difficult part to attain.
- Discovering Tools for a Successful Daily Meditation Practice
By creating and committing to a regular meditation practice, you lower your baseline level of emotional arousal so that when something negative occurs, or you start to have anxiety or worried thoughts, instead of your normal programmed reaction, you instead are able to retrain your mind to meet these situations with patience and mindfulness. We know that a daily meditation practice helps to ground us and sets us up for the day ahead, but how do we make it easy and approachable? My book Meditation with Intention includes some of my personal top tips for making sure that you carve out that much-needed time for yourself each day to meditate, and that you actually begin to look forward to doing so. If you can make a commitment to set aside five minutes each morning, preferably as soon as you have risen, you will find that this sets you up best for the day ahead, and you will not be disappointed. You can also visit www.shantiwithin.com/shop for my free five-minute mindfulness meditation and details of my meditation and coaching program.