This weeks “spring cleaning” blog will discus an often under looked aspect of spring cleaning and detoxification. WORKING WITH YOUR MIND.
Mental Detoxification involves working with the thoughts and beliefs that are tainting our perceptions. Our mind and body are not separate and therefore in order to have a healthy vital body the mind must also be healthy. A wellness program that ignores the mind is inefficient and impractical. In fact many attempts at self-care or “cleansing” and fitness programs may just self hate in disguise. But who you are being is what you are becoming and there is a saying in neuroscience “mental states become neural traits”. What this means is where you are feeding your mental energy and unconscious loyalty, what you are paying you attention to is what you are also growing in your body and mind. To keep with the spring metaphor we can think of the practices outlined below in this blog as a process of ‘pulling the weeds’ so that we may plant new seeds.
Cleaning the filter
There are many theories about personality and behaviour and what follows is a very simplified explanation of a very complicated process called being a human. Just like our liver is a filter, our mind filters all of our experiences we take in through our five senses. Instead of thinking of the mind as living in the head separate from the body, consider that the mind is all over the body.
Over time our brain gets very efficient at taking is senses, filtering them through the mind and creating perception. Perceptions create beliefs, thoughts emotions and eventually behaviours. Because this process is so fast and efficient many of our thoughts and behaviours happen unconsciously until these thoughts and behaviours become habitual ways we relate to, act and react in our environments. This is not necessarily bad, there are definitely perks to this set up, like being able to tie your shoes and drive a car without thinking about it to much.
However sometimes, just like in the liver we get build-up, and we begin to see the world through this filter causing us to become desensitized, guarded or jaded. The sanskrit word avidya, which is described by the sage patanjali as an obstacle on our path towards liberation, may be translated as illusion or ‘not seeing clearly’ and many of the techniques of meditation he outlines are believed to lift these veils. Many things contribute to this build up or not seeing clearly and most of it is not our fault at all—just like Milli Vanilli we are a by products of our environments (the 80’s), our brains (blame it on the brain yeah yeah), our genetics (it’s all your parents fault…sort of) and even past lives (not in the reincarnation kinda way rather multi generational trauma and culture). The sanskrit word ‘samskara’ describes this well and is similar to the idea of record grooves or a rat stuck in a wheel. Mental detoxification involves becoming mindful of the thoughts, emotions and sensations that motivate behaviour so that we can practice being a little less reactive and acting more in a more empowered way. Through mindfulness we can allow these sensations, emotions and thoughts to be messengers that inform our behaviour versus hijackers that control us unconsciously.
PRACTICES FOR MENTAL DETOXIFICATION
MEDITATION AND JOURNALING EXERCISES
One of the greatest toxicities on our planet is lack. Lack is the underlying belief that you are not enough. Marketing targets this fear with promises of a better body, more money, shinier things, etc which eventually leads to excessive accumulation. Even yoga and meditation is being drowned in this noise. I recommend taking a 10-30 min pause everyday to become aware of the internal environment. We spend so much of our day on auto pilot constantly planning, accumulating, and striving with outward focus and forward momentum that we become dislodged from our own feelings and thoughts causing mis-alignment between out heart and our actions. We also live at a time where we are distracted by technology like never before. Taking a moment in stillness and silence offers us an opportunity to observe the internal sensations and fluctuations of the mind. Because our thoughts dictate our actions, becoming more aware of what we are thinking most of the time has the capacity to lead to less reactiveness, less distraction and heightened focus and intuition. The more we can observe the commentaries and noise without engaging in them, the more we can embody the experience of the present moment. Being present is important because it allows us to make decisions that aren’t dictated by the programming in the mind as a result of our memories and archetypes, but instead in alignment with our hearts. In the end, only what is in your heart is important.
There are many different techniques and schools of meditation. The one I use is simple. You will need a timer, a meditation cushion or pillow and a quiet space. I find first thing in the morning before anyone in my house is awake is easiest, but anytime will work. Generally the mind is less active upon waking than by mid-afternoon or evening. Sit up tall, allow the pelvis to tilt slightly forward and the low back to be neutral. Move the back of the head in line with the back of the pelvis and the nose in line with the navel. Close the eyes softly and bring the focus to your nostrils. Bring your awareness to the sensation of the breath in the nostrils and rest it there. Inevitably the mind will wander, but do not get frustrated, this is supposed to happen. Gently bring your self back to watching the nostrils. You can also watch the breath on its journey through the body, beginning in the nostrils and ending in the low belly. Again when you get carried away by a thought, gently bring your self back to the breath. When the timer goes, grab a journal and without thinking begin to write down all of the thoughts that came up for you. Over time I have found this practice has made me more aware of the common stories, themes and commentaries my mind hijacks me with and through becoming more aware of them, they have less power. They have not gone away, my mind is still very active. However, I am now able to notice when I am being carried away and through practice and patience learning to come back to the moment. Here are some guided meditations you may find helpful. For a more in depth study, every year I offer meditation teacher trainings and I will be offering a BEology 10-week Life Practice course online
Once you have become aware of some of your common stories and commentaries I find it helpful to make a F&*K it list. Unlike the bucket list that focuses on things you want to accomplish before you die, which for many of us is tainted by expectations and judgements about what we ‘should’ want to do or accomplish before we die, the f*&k it list focuses on the shit that you are finally ready to compost. For instance I have always wanted to swim and run naked on a beautiful beach, technically this could go on my bucket list, however I realized my own self judgement and fear of what others might think about my body was the only thing standing in my way…………..F*&k it!
The fuck it list is not about becoming complacent or not caring, in fact it is about becoming more engaged and awake in your life—becoming aware of where you are feeding your energy and really being intentional about where you are investing your life.