An Extreme Skeptic’s Guide To Mindfulness An Extreme Skeptic’s Guide To Mindfulness
How many of you reading this right now believe that your thoughts can influence how you feel? For those of you who believe otherwise,... An Extreme Skeptic’s Guide To Mindfulness

How many of you reading this right now believe that your thoughts can influence how you feel?

For those of you who believe otherwise, you may want to stop reading the post right now.

If you did come to the conclusion that thoughts do in fact influence your day, could it then also be possible that a string of thoughts could alter the path your life?

This is a challenging topic for debate, especially if you have a religious upbringing like I did. For years I was under the belief that each day was its own individual block of my life. Even Biblically, we often hear people quoting Lamentations 3:22-23, “his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning”. I interpreted that I too would be imparted with such a blank slate when it came to each day, because of this passage when I was younger.

As I marched forward through the years on my spiritual journey I uncovered just how far off base I was on this rather entitled assumption. What I came to realize that not only did I not have clean mental slate each day, but it was my compounding thoughts that had been unconsciously suffocating the breath right from my lungs. Most of these thoughts rarely revealed themselves to the level consciousness that my mind would be able to recognize. I was deeply involved with my past, or wrapped up in future plans. Enveloping myself to the present tense was rare. The present moment was basically indistinguishable until I was taught to how to seek after it.   

On the cognitive side of things, our thought-life has been scientifically proven over and over again to directly impact your life. And the strength of this power and force grows exponentially through thoughts that have been ruminated upon for years and years with compounding force which imprints themselves into your being. 

Consider this: have you ever come across a professional basketball player who didn’t have to spend countless hours of their life practising the game before they were even considered being drafted to the big leagues?  While the answer to this question is rather obvious, we might downplay areas of our lives that we might be unconsciously mastering day in and day out. Repetitive thought is often not intentional, but it does often manifest to real life reward, good or bad.  

Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit. P.7 As A Man Thinketh

While this has proved to be an enormous truth to swallow, I then had then to chew on just how many areas of my life I would then need to proctor with more thought-vigilance. The sub-conscious mind is a resource hungry, depleting far more than its fair share of our energy, being responsible for more than 90% of thoughts throughout the day.

Through years of dedicated focus, I managed to earn a triple PhD in worrying. To say I can hold my own when it comes to catastrophizing, is a massive understatement. I don’t think this was a talent I was born with straight from the womb either. I unconsciously set aside hours upon hours every day to practice the art. By my mid-twenties I was drafted into the big leagues, and all of my anxious laden thought practice was cashed in. My body had finally reached its upper limits in stress capacity and began to melt-down. Being totally unaware of the fact that I was an anxious person, I just assumed everything felt as tightly wound up all the time like me. I presumed my peers felt the same way too. I mean, from an outside perspective I had a tone of friends, dressed well, and fit in with the best of them. People would have assumed I was an extremely confident by how I carried myself. So when my mental breakdown came to the surface, and I was incapable hiding behind the masks I always wore, I could finally relate with idea of checking out from the game of life. It was unbearable.

The method by which I followed to reach professional status in worrying, is by much the same process that Michael Jordan made it to the top of his sport, it was through practice. The only difference between me and Air Jordan resides in the fact I didn’t intentionally set out to reach the heights of a mental breakdown, but I sure as heck practiced with as much focus and determination.

I had been planting seeds of despair in my mental garden for many years before my first panic attack. When I was told that I was not actually being attacked from an external influence, well that’s unless I threw back massive amounts of coffee, and I had been subconsciously bombarding myself with negative thoughts, which left me in disbelief. Clearly the doctors were off their rockers, and had been misdiagnosing my symptoms. I was fairly certain there was something wrong with my brain, and they needed to check for a possible aneurysm. When they assured me that wasn’t the case, they would then need to check my heart, because it felt like I had had a heart attack too. My body was shutting down, or so I thought, but it turns out that my only organ that needed attention was my amygdala connected to the vastly overloaded Central Nervous System.

After further investigation, I slowly came around to the understand that, while although thought might not be the only determining factor to my mental illness, it played a massive roll. My nervous system was working the way it was designed to, and that although no real physical threat had presented itself, my amygdala fired through its activation process in response threats I formulated in my head.

I was told that if I wanted to see the culprit to the anxiety I would have to slow myself down to a level where I could be the observer. This task in my state of affairs could not have been achieved without the intervention of an SSRI. Once I was vibrating less in terror I could slowly attempt the journey of finding my internal pause button. Enter meditation.

After a few years of a highly regimented meditation practice I can now happily say I’ve located the pause button within, and have come to rely on it immensely. It is a formidable tool in my tool belt that I regularly use to combat against the pressures of life.

We humans are creatures of habit. We end up living in repetitive thought cycles. We wake up, the image of a bathroom pops in our mind, we go shower and relieve ourselves. Then the thought of the coffee machine comes to mind, we make our way to the kitchen to make coffee and pour it into our favourite mug. Auto-pilot is in full force as we dress ourselves and head out the door. We unconsciously blast through our daily tasks and meetings tasks of our day and then ruminate on what needs to be cooked for dinner. The kids have to be proctored, making sure they finish their homework, and lets not forget about walking the dog. Let’s not forget about catching up on the last few episodes of Game of Thrones before passing out in bed. The morning arrives with the buzz of the alarm on your smartphone. You reach your arm over to turn it off and start scanning through your messages on WhatsApp, the feeds of Instagram and Twitter. You start to compare and contrast how crappy your life is compared to all these rich celebrities and friends who post pictures of themselves on another vacation. To say your heart is filled to the brim with optimism is quite  laughable. Ding! the thought of a shower pops in and you slowly make your way to the washroom, not realizing that you are already shifted back into auto-pilot and you will have mostly been checked out for the remainder the day.

As Joe Dispenza highlighted at the Science and Spirituality conference, “at what point of the day do you allocate time for new experiences to come into your life ?” I had never really asked myself that question before. Sure I was aware that a lot of my thoughts had been repetitive week after week, but to deliberately allocate time of my day to allow for new life to bloom hadn’t really cross my thought-horizon.

The how, in which I went about doing such a thing always started with meditation. To be more specific, I use an app today and do 20-30 minutes of guided meditation 3 times a week or more. The goal of course is to make it part of my daily routine. The two easiest times I’ve found to interrupt your thought cycle is before bed, and as soon as you wake up in the morning. I made the decision and commitment to myself that meditation was going to be a huge part of my life two years ago, and I haven’t turned back since. intentionally make a packed with yourself to press pause on the auto-pilot, and offer yourself space to plant new thoughts into the cosmic field of your mental garden.

There is one stipulation I need to spotlight prior to you heading out on your own meditation journey. It seems to be a hardwired limitation to the human condition, and this limitation is resistance. Like an out-stretched rubber band, the mind loves to return to its previous form. With a couple hundred wonderful meditation sessions now under my belt, there still is a very sick part of me that wants to remain just that, sick. My head is filled with ridiculous excuses to push the practice off to a later date. My excuses, although being very creative at times, are all lies. I still feel deeply saddened by my ability to persuade myself from doing something beneficial for myself. When these types of internal debates start to grab hold, I’ve found great success by simply taking the pressure off myself, by giving way to the struggle and telling myself I don’t have to do it. Somehow by offering myself a gentle this solution I almost invariably end up meditating only an hour or two later. If you are stuck in a place of resistance of your own, just trust you will have to continually make it a priority before it becomes more habitual. The barriers to entry may be strong, but the juice is absolutely worth the squeeze.

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