Do you believe everything you think?
I use mindfulness-based yoga to tame my busy mind from overthinking and constantly analyzing.
Most of us know toxic thinking, aka monkey mind, is emotional and physically harmful.
Emotionally it can sabotage your zest for life and your self-esteem. Physically it can make you look more like the Greek God Atlas, who was condemned to hold up the sky on his shoulders.
So why does this happen?
First know there is nothing wrong with you. Your mental chatter is normal. It becomes a problem if you let your thoughts run the show. When you lose your place in the driver seat and instead find yourself helplessly without directions in the back seat of your life.
Your brain is bombarded with information from your senses all day long. I’m sure you know this scenario – you drive from your home to the office and have no recollection of the road you took. Or you ate a meal but don’t remember how it tasted. You were busy listening and commenting on the conversation inside of your head.
According to new research published in the journal, eLife: ‘We all hear voices in our heads. The brain treats talking inside of our heads as essentially the same thing as talking out loud.’
Why then should you pay attention to what’s going on between your ears? Is it harmful?
If your mind noise becomes obsessive it’s harmful. It will drain your energy, create stress, anxiety, and depression. Your untamed thoughts have the power to sabotage you in believing things are wrong. They act like hyperactive children a Jungle Gym. Unstoppable! They can drive you nuts.
The Tibetan Buddhist Tsokyni Rinpoche teaches that when we’re emotionally hijacked by worry, regret, fear, anxiety, or anger, we must remember that the emotional and physical state we experience is “real but not true.”
Twenty-five years ago, I studied Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. I still remember a question that changed my understanding of what it feels like to be in the present moment:
Reflect on your last 10 minutes. Were you in your head or in your experience?
I was in my head the whole time analyzing and critiquing my practice. My shoulder hurt and I wanted it to move better. My mind started disliking the teacher who kept us too long in the pose. His guidance to honor my edge: “Not too much, not too little,” made me angry. It brought tears to my eyes to be so limited. I had no idea on how to honor that.
My mind whined: “not too little?” I was barely able to move it and I pushed hard to be better.
My mind was clearly in the driver seat and it didn’t go well. In the course of this training, I learned that I had a powerful companion to keep me out of my head – my body. I learned to listen and to honor my body. It always speaks the truth.
Give your thoughts a time-out.
There are many ways to interrupt compulsive thinking like taking a walk or riding a bike. Make time in your life for a hobby that brings you joy and lets you feel rather than think
I have created 365 🌴Tiny Islands. They are mini-retreats in your day to bring mindfulness into your day to help you be in the driver seat.
- Get out of your head and into your body.
Pause. Take a deep breath in and out. Relax with the exhale. Repeat.
Close your eyes or gaze softly at a spot in front of you.
Repeat breathing in and out. Notice you’re inhaling and feel your lungs expand. Notice you’re exhaling and feel your lungs contract.
Reflect: Were you in your head or in your body while breathing?
Let me guess, for one breath, you were in your experience. Right?
Now repeat and practice this several times a day. Be patient but persistent. Set a timer and slowly increase your practice time from one breath to three to five, to one minute. Practice this several times a day and before you get up in the morning and go to sleep at night.
To pause and observe your breath can be challenging.
If thoughts show up, remember that’s normal; it’s the nature of the mind. Use each exhalation to let your thought go and each inhalation to feel the present moment.
- Connect your breath with movement
Sit on a chair or stand, feet hip-width apart.
Put your right hand on your belly button, and your left hand on your heart.
Close your eyes.
Notice your breath. Inhale and exhale.
Notice your hands touch your body and your breath touch your hands. You’re in the present moment!
Now put your hands in prayer position in front of your chest.
Lift your hands out to the side and up to the ceiling until your palms touch way up above your head. You’re creating a big circle with your arms. Now circle them back to prayer position in front of your chest.
Connect the circle you made with your arms with your breath.
Hands in prayer position breathe out. Coordinate the inhale with your hands circling up. Notice your lungs are full when your hands touch above your head. With a slow exhale circle the arms back down to prayer position.
Repeat two more times.
Rest for another breath or two with your hands by your side or on your lap.
Keep practicing these three times a day. Before breakfast, lunch and before you go to bed. I promise you it will get you out of your head.
- Take a 90-second time out.
To not let your thoughts hijack you need to break the thought pattern. I learned this from neuropsychiatrist, Dan Siegel.
He says, “After 90 seconds, an emotion will arise and fall like a wave on the shore.” Emotions ride along with your thoughts. It only takes 90 seconds to shift out of a mood state, including anger. Give yourself 90 seconds—about 10 – 12 deep in and out breaths—to not think about what your thoughts delivered. You’ve broken that thought cycle—and the hold your thoughts had on you.
“To honor your body means to keep what’s true in view.!”