I distinctly remember having an Indian head massage at the age of 22 and the therapist wincing and saying: “Your head and neck are so full of tension. Do you have a busy mind?” Embarrassed and equally amused that she may just have delved into the inner workings of my brain purely through a routine 20 minute treatment, I nodded in agreement.
Being a parent who works, juggles a tandem career and spends an increasing amount of time being introspective, I fully accept, 17 years later, the significance of that lady’s observation. Nobody knows how busy our minds really are – it’s subjective, right? and our ‘inner lives’ can be quite different to the image we project to the outside world.
I could place a wager on the fact that we’re all caught up in our inner narrative. It’s a seemingly unending private conversation, that meanders around, frequently repeats itself and has no actual conclusion. The thing is, our minds are busy. Yes, the world is frantic and chaotic, but did you ever stop to consider how the way you think affects your reality?
As human beings with small dependents, we are predisposed to worry. We compare, contrast, judge, analyse, compete, question, catastrophise and worry some more… all in the space of a few minutes. We sometimes fail to acknowledge that our feelings are the flip-side of those thoughts…like a disappointing B-side to a vinyl track (yes, I’m showing my age). Feelings, like thoughts, are transient. Often we intervene with analysis and clunky problem-solving techniques to ‘wish away’ the negativity, when it would be kinder to take a step back and know that resistance will only amplify a negative experience.
How many people have sensed anxiety murmurings, panic or that kind of flat nausea of low mood and immediately gone into fight or flight? Some would say it derives from basic survival from caveman days, yet more and more we perceive threats as real when they are mind-made, but our body still generates the same natural stress response.
Nowadays I find perspective a lot more beneficial. I used to wrestle with trying to reframe and challenge thinking (and it felt like a laboured and quite exhausting affair to be honest). I had fallen into the trap of believing that thoughts were real – almost like concrete matter. That the story they told would dictate my life. We’re all such adept storytellers, we even buy our own hype! To some degree that’s true – it’s centuries of cultural conditioning that has shaped our ideologies and the way we live our lives, but the Eureka! moment comes when you see it’s simply a narrative. Nothing more.
My head is still busy…but there are increasing periods of stillness. I’m as guilty as the rest of us for getting caught up in ‘doing’ rather than simply ‘being’. I made a pact with myself a few years ago to live profoundly and with purpose and, for me, it’s about being less caught up in thought and more attuned with awareness. I’ve been reading Haemin Sunim’s book ‘The Things You Can Only See When you Slow Down’ and each page is seeped in wisdom. Our minds are busy so we see the world as chaotic and frantic. When we stop for a minute, everything slows down with us and it offers us the space to see the beauty in everyday life.
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