Control your Mind, Control Your Life Dec 2023

This is the 3rd article in honour of our yoga retreat coming up on Fri 22/3/24 – Sun 24/3/24, Springbrook, QLD. Thich Nhat Hanh likened anxiety and rampant stress in the mind to a wild, rainy storm raging through your house. Blowing away papers, knocking over vases, slamming doors and turning everything into chaos. His beautiful analogy of going inward, cleaning up after the storm: closing the windows and doors of the mind (eyes and ears), tidying and sorting through the disarray of papers and objects (calming the thoughts, putting them in order) and finally bringing some warmth and cosiness back into the room by building a small fire in the fireplace (sinking into the belly, focussing on the warm and nourishing breath and finding comfort in your own self). It’s a wonderful description to help one realise that meditation is an inward, loving, comforting practice where you learn to befriend your own best friend, YOU. And this idea of being able to find that safety and sense of home within yourself, no matter what is going on in your life or around you is in total contrast to how most of the Western world views silence and time spent alone with their thoughts.

Timothy Wilson, a social psychologist recruited hundreds of volunteers to take part in “thinking periods.” For 15 minutes, the team left participants alone in a lab room. Alone with their thoughts. The participants were also given the option to push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to. The results were startling: Even though all participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves. Rather than sit quietly and think.
Wilson stated that: “I found it quite surprising and a bit depressing that people seem to be so uncomfortable when left to their own devices; that they can be so bored that even being shocked seemed more entertaining. We have this huge brain and it’s stuffed full of pleasant memories, and we can construct fantasies and stories. We really thought this [thinking time] was something people would like.”

What’s going on here? The researchers found that the participants who enjoyed the exercise and enjoyed being alone with their thoughts on personality tests, tested more agreeable or cooperative than those that didn’t. And this group didn’t need direction or prescription on what to think, they seemed to find their internal worlds quite interesting and enjoyable.

According to research, the average person has approximately 60 000 thoughts per day and  75% of these thoughts are negative, and 95% are repetitive. Many of our negative thoughts are driven by the flight or fight part of our brain. This constant barrage of negative and repetitive thoughts significantly impacts our mental health, happiness, and physical health. Go back to the participants. If Jo Blow, bored out of his mind, sits there ruminating on his 45000 negative thoughts, shocking himself to kill time and avoid these thoughts, what do you think his body is going through? As far as his caveman body goes, its running on its hamster wheel, going down that sad rabbit hole and its ageing Jo at a really rapid pace.

Negative thoughts significantly impact our mental health and overall wellbeing. They can lead to increased stress and anxiety, decreased self-esteem, and a sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life. Repetitive thoughts can become deeply ingrained in our minds, making it difficult to change our thought patterns and break free from negative thinking. This negativity can result in a feeling of being stuck, unable to move forward, and a lack of motivation to change our circumstances. 

Is there hope for Jo? Yes (he’s coming on yoga retreat)! The quickest strategy to learn to control the rumination of the mind is through the practice of meditation and silence. The brain is like a muscle, the more we practice meditation and silence the stronger those new neural pathways in your brain become. So instead of taking Jo down that sad road of unhappy thoughts, he has the power to direct his mind elsewhere. And when Jo becomes thoroughly addicted to this new positive behaviour (meditation and silence), I’ll teach him to manifest the life of his dreams! But that’s another Retreat. From Headspace: “Brilliant things happen in calm minds. Be calm. You’re brilliant.”
Hope you can join us! Your minds are going to be thoroughly blown!
Love and namaste Margot

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