Real but not True – a Mindset for Success

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If you suffer from even just an occasional attack of anxiety, worry or ruminating thoughts, this post has some very useful tips on how to stop the spin cycle of subcortical looping, ie. excessive, repeating thoughts of worry and fear. These are therapies and tips that I have been researching and trying on myself. They are not to replace professional medical guidance.

First, a few book quotes from  Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness

Worrying as a Way of Controlling the Future

The thoughts spinning around and around in our minds can be very convincing. We build elaborate scenarios of failure and chaos and believe them to be true. This may be very creative, but not conducive to happiness! Worry is a very real kind of mental suffering. I know because I come from a lineage of worriers myself. My mother used to joke that when she couldn’t think of anything to worry about, she’d really get worried. “It was my way of making sure I was taking care of things,” she says.

These are the thoughts that hold us back from doing the things that will bring us success. 

Phantom Problems

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Our minds can get stuck in worrying about phantom problems that we convince ourselves are real. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Reasonable planning for the future can give us direction, but obsessing about what might go wrong puts us in a perpetual state of stress and rarely brings about positive results. 

The Problem with Chronic Worry is that it Solves Nothing and Causes Stress

“New solutions and fresh ways of seeing a problem do not typically come from worrying, especially chronic worry. Instead of coming up with solutions to these potential problems, worriers typically simply ruminate on the danger itself, immersing themselves in a low-key way in the dread associated with it while staying in the same rut of thought.” – Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.

Read more Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

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Health Problems Associated with Obsessive Worry

Not only does worrying drain your energy, chronic worrying will eventually manifest into insomnia, sleep disorders, stomach problems, heart issues, binge eating, headaches, anxiety and depression. I personally have suffered through IBS and severe panic attacks and have been seeking guidance and help my whole life. However, I no longer want to feel this way.

Your Worry and Thoughts are Real, but Not True

So how do we wake ourselves up from the suffering of obsessive worry and anxiety?  Tara Brach, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of The Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW) suggests you shine some light on the worry by asking yourself a series of questions that begin with – What am I believing right now? Are you believing you will fail at something in the future? That something is wrong with you? That doom and gloom is right around the corner?

While the beliefs you have and those ruminating thoughts running your mind may feel very real they not necessarily true and they may be causing a very real physical effect on your body – like tightness, anxiety and fear.

Illusion exists because it’s not investigated.

As soon as you start questioning these thoughts and beliefs and shine a light of investigation on your fear-based loops you can begin to wake up out of their grip.

Question Your Beliefs

Shining the light of awareness on our worry really helps.  Byron Katie the founder of Byron Katie International (BKI), an organization that includes The School for the Work and Turnaround House in Ojai, California recommends we ask ourselves some powerful questions as we investigate the validity of our worry.

Take a moment to answer these questions. (Note, this is not a one time quick fix, in order to really do the work, these questions should be asked over and over again, it’s a practice.)

What am I believing right now?

Is it true? Do I really know that this is true?

What is it like to be living with this belief?  What does it feel like? Do I feel small? Contracted? Sad? Defeated?

How has this affected my life to be believing this?

How would I be if I didn’t believe this to be true?

These questions and post was inspired today by this amazing talk by Tara Brach. Click here to listen to more Releasing Limiting Beliefs   

Suggested Reading: True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

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Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

I am researching and studying the benefits of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Here are a few tips I have picked up a long the way. They have certainly helped me lighten up from the weighted suffering of worry.

Pause and Breathe

Mindfulness interrupts the tape loop by bringing us back to the moment so we can respond to what is actually happening right now. Mindfulness meditation shifts the mode adopted in response to thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness meditation involves a particular kind of attention and mental stance: deliberately, intentionally and non-judgementally paying attention to the present moment. Just one minute of mindful awareness can break the sub-cortical looping and rumination. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Just focus on that breath moving in and out of your body.

Look for Triggers

Triggers are warning signs and triggers for rumination include tiredness, inactivity and irritability. It is important to watch your mind and become aware of any of these emotions, which can lead to bouts of anxiety and obsessive worry. These can be counteracted by taking better care of yourself ie. plenty of rest, exercise and nutrition.

Get up and Move and maybe Join a Team

Cognitive behavior therapy has found that exercise and sports that are action focused and have us directly engaged in an experience can help release worry and rumination. Think yoga, tabata, tennis, skiing and team sports. Participating in sports that require your attention and engagement may really help you immerse in a sensory experience which will help you break the pattern of fear and worry.

Start a New Project

Shifting your activities from routine chores and obligations towards more self-fulfilling and absorbing activities will help you refocus your mind on something new. So will taking a more mindful approach to cleaning the house, running errands and folding the laundry.

Slow Down and Reduce the Rush

CBT therapists will encourage patients to slow things down while only focusing on one thing at a time. They will ask their patients to pace their activities without taking on too much which also may help  reduces the sense of “rushing around” and “being under pressure”.

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When we lighten up and let go of real but not true thoughts, we make room for more in our lives.

What have you tried that has helped? I’d love to learn more.

 

Sensing Awe in the AWEdinary

sun riseIf you are paying attention you can find truth and inspiration anywhere and everywhere, in the most ordinary things and experiences in life.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower – Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. 
~ William Blake

Study – The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

What passes for spectacular and awesome in today’s culture is mostly synthetic and artificial – most experiences fading like fireworks in a night sky.
Feeling Awesome
Awe is not a function of the brain. Awe is a feeling that comes from that mysterious place deep within the heart and soul. Awe isn’t a product of thought. Rather, awe arises from the gap between our thoughts. There, we connect with that which is beyond description and understanding – something that can only be felt – something that can be shared, but not explained. Read more awesome thoughts here
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius
Read his philosophy here

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

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Profound truths are in the anthropological field notes of life.  The sweet honey fragrance of pink plumeria aromatizing along my pre-dawn morning walk.  The salty, slightly cooler fresh air blowing through my hair from the Gulf of Mexico. The nervous scurrying about of the hard shell blue crab across the inter coastal dock.
Life’s Field Notes
When searching for awe in the ordinary, I study life like an anthropologist. Ethnographers engage in participant observation in order to gain insight into cultural practices and phenomena. To facilitate this process, ethnographers must learn how to take useful and reliable notes regarding the details of life in their research contexts. My journals may include –
  1. Date, time, and place of observation
  2. Specific facts, numbers, details of what happens at the site
  3. Sensory impressions: sights, sounds, textures, smells, taste
  4. Personal responses to the fact of recording fieldnotes
  5. Specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations, and insider language
  6. Questions about people or behaviors at the site for future investigation
  7. Page numbers to help keep observations in order
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The Blue Crab as Spirit Animal
Time to come out of your shell and be yourself. Stop hiding. He is reminding you that not all paths lead directly to your personal goals. Sometimes a sideways approach is necessary. Shift your focus to what is all around you because your inner senses are trying to guide you through an easier way. Alternatively crab can be reminding you that community is vital for growth, however equally important is a time of introspective seclusion. Know when to withdraw and discern what is right for you.
Crab can also be letting you know that it is important to fuel your curiosity on all levels. Exploration of the world around you leads to discovering new horizons and a vibrant life.

The Busy Trap, Turks & Caicos and the Art of Slow Travel

Parrot Cay

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are.  It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing.

Busy, so busy, crazy busy.

It is is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation. “well that’s a good problem to have!” “Better than the opposite.”

This frantic self-congratulatory business busyness is a distinctly upscale affliction. Notice it isn’t people pulling back to back shifts in the ICU or those taking care of their senescent parents or holding down three minimum wage jobs that have to commute to by bus, who need to tell you how busy they are. What those people are is not busy but tired, exhausted, dead on their feet.  

 It’s almost often said by people who’s lamented business is purely self-imposed- work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily. Classes and activities they’ve encouraged their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety because they are addicted to busyness and dread what they might face in its absence.  –  excerpt from Tim Kreider’s “The Busy Trap”

The Art of Slow Travel

I’m leaving this Sunday for an impromptu week on Turks & Caicos –  Parrot Cay to be precise.  My husband was called down on a design and build mission and I get to tag along. You see we don’t do vacations, we do “adventures”. Sailing excursions where we squeeze six humans on a 35 foot boat for 18 days. Camping trips with small babies up the Cape coast for three weeks. I don’t really understand the concept of doing nothing. It frightens me like nothing else.

So, unfortunately, I’m already worried about the wi-fi. Really? Well there goes 100 hours of meditation practice down the drain. Will I have a bike? 24/7 internet access? transportation to island hop? Access to anything I might, need, want, desire?  What if I get tired of the beach? Will I be “trapped” on this beautiful slice of heaven? And to think I’ve been dreaming of going on a silent meditation retreat. Who am I kidding? Laughing very hard at myself right now.

This neurotic anxiousness of being left out (a bit of FOMO I gather) reminds me of a brilliant essay that Tim Kreider wrote for The New York Times a few years ago. It’s called Lazy, a Manifesto.  For anyone who feels the same, it’s a quick must read- the full essay here The Busy Trap, Tim Kreider and one of my favorite book of short essays buy the same author –

We Learn Nothing: Essays

While I do feel incredibly blessed with this opportunity to go, I ask myself, how will I learn to slow down, savor and enjoy this gift of a “vacation”? Perhaps I will meditate on Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice and enjoy a moment of nothing.

If you can find a moment to sit, wherever you are, stay there and enjoy nothing. Just enjoy your in-breath and out-breath. Don’t allow yourself to be carried away by your thinking, worries or projects. Just sit there and enjoy doing nothing; enjoy your breathing and the fact that you are alive . . .

Taken from Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings from the beloved Zen teacher

In the meantime, if anyone has suggestions about what to do or see in Turks & Caicos – I would love to hear suggestions.