Have you ever felt that you are being overwhelmed by a racing mind or that your head is full of thoughts all screaming for attention? Do you go over the same things again and again – your responsibilities and the many things you must still do; your fears and your concerns. Do you seek solutions to your problems, and test each possibility for hidden flaws; rehearse each idea to help remember it.
Perhaps this is what happens when we do not listen to our thoughts in any sort of meaningful way.
Mentally exhausted, we just want to shut down our minds and get some much-needed sleep or go on autopilot and watch movies.
If this is the case, you might actually feel that you have become a bit scared to be still and just be quiet with yourself. As soon as you quiet down, you are bombarded with an endless spiral of thoughts! These thoughts might be of an unpleasant nature: your worries, your fears. Parts of yourself that you don’t like so much and would rather like to forget about by occupying your mind with work related tasks. And so you might, as I did, begin to associate becoming still with pain and discomfort.
Remember Pavlov’s classical dog experiment on conditioning? He would ring a bell before feeding his dogs. After a while, the dogs started to drool at the sound of the bell, showing that they had come to expect food when the bell rang. Conditioning can also give rise to negative responses. If, instead of hearing a bell, the dogs had been kicked before receiving food, they probably would have started to associate food with pain.
This is also how we form limiting or negative beliefs:
Every time a certain action results in an unpleasant experience, we reinforce it in our minds by linking that action to a hurtful result. We then try to avoid doing whatever causes us pain or discomfort.
I can confirm this. In 2012 and 2013 I found especially that the more I tried to avoid becoming still and at peace by being busy the whole time, the more I actually needed both emotional and physical rest and wasn’t able to get any! My mind was racing all the time! The problem is the more we fear or try to avoid, suppress or resist a situation, the greater the discomfort or pain when it does occur in our lives. It’s like a pendulum: the more it swings to one side, the further it will swing to the other . . .
You might feel that when you try to become still, it as if your thoughts are screaming at you. But if you think about it, things that scream scream because they desperately want to be heard. We need to be brave. We need to pluck up the courage to actually listen to these thoughts and emotions, even if it is for small chunks in your day. And take a hard look at what your insides are trying to tell you, even if this might be highly uncomfortable.
Are you taking enough time throughout your day to reconnect with yourself and listen to what is really going on?
– It’s always good to write things down on paper. Get a diary. And without editing just write down what comes up for you. You might experience that your mind becomes lighter as you unpack it.
– Do a daily check in. And just ask yourself: How am I feeling today?
– Meditation and yoga are amazing tools to really put us back in our bodies instead of our heads. Maybe it is time to join a class or download a free guided meditation. I find these links quite helpful: http://www.tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html and http://www.freemindfulness.org/download.
(Insights gained from ILS course designed and written by Colleen-Joy Page)
[Main image credit: Royalty free stock photos from 123RF/Carla Castagno]