It is very hard for my brain to turn off. I have a very analytical mind, so if I'm awake my brain is on rapid fire. I'm thinking about a conversation that upset me, or a conversation I should have, or whatever I need to get done on my to-do list. My analytical mind causes me anxiety, which causes a host of other problems such as sleep-loss, and stress.
Mindful practices like yoga, conscious breathing, and meditation are essential to my mental and emotional health. It would be very hard for me to get anything done without those tools, including writing this blog. :-)
But even with those daily practices, it still takes my mind a while to settle down and bring my attention to the present moment. Present moment awareness is the key to mind-body balance, which is key to building a Strong Mind, Brave Heart, Wise Body, and Noble Spirit - the four pillars of our Live Free Yoga teachings.
I have recently come up with a new technique to help me release the mind chatter, so I can go back to sleep, meditate, nature walk, and do all those things that I need to keep me grounded, calm, and clear.
Thought is Cause
One way to remove unwanted thoughts while meditating is you first need to be aware of the fact that you're thinking at all. Most of the time thoughts enter our mind, and we simply react in a certain way. We might get angry, or frustrated, or feel joy. Our thoughts get meshed in with our feelings, so it's hard to separate the two. As my Live Free Yoga Co-Founder, Tida Chambers says, 'Thought is cause." We think, we feel, we react.
But when we can separate thoughts from feelings, and become an observer of our thoughts, we disconnect from them. Our thoughts no longer can hijack our brain and take over our response. We have more control over our actions when we are aware that a thought has entered into our mind. We don't judge it, we just recognize that we've had a thought and release it.
Say Hi to Your Brain
I have taken this a step further. You see our brain is designed to protect us. It's that flight, flight, or freeze thing you've always heard about. Our primitive brain wants to make sure we run from the lions, tigers, and bears (Oh my!) that threaten our "territory."
When we have thoughts that cause us anxiety, it's because our primitive brain perceives that we are in trouble. Run or get eaten! So, the method that I use now when I have an overwhelming thought that is keeping me awake or preventing me from being present, is I say out loud or to myself something like this: "Hi brain. Thank you for protecting me. I know you just want me to be safe, but I'm ok. I don't need you now. I'll catch up with you later."
Not only does it help me separate from my thoughts, but telling my brain (my Self) that I'm safe also relieves my anxiety.
This new tool in my toolkit has been a game-changer for me. I still wake up in the middle of the night with thoughts that could turn into a continuous loop of fear, doubt, and worry. But now, I simply talk to my brain with gratitude in my heart, and the confidence that all is well.
Meditation is a proven method to bring calm, balance, and clarity into your life. Join us for our virtual meditation retreat, "Unlock Your Wisdom Within, guided by Live Free Yoga's meditation master, Tida Chambers, and begin your journey towards peace and self-love. Click HERE to register.
Author, Phyllis Smith, is the Co-founder and CEO of Live Free Yoga, which provides yoga and mindfulness programs for youth and adults who serve them. She is also the co-creator of Lighter Being, a transformative mindfulness video series to help you find more balance, self-love, and a lighter state of being. Photo by Kathy Tran