Thu, 14 May 2015
This little trick is super useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, nervous or when your head feels noisy. Learn how to turn to your brain and say SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!
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I spent years learning how to meditate, reading books, going to classes and even silent retreats. I remember sitting in one particular silent retreat just cursing my mind because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t turn it off. Meditation felt awful to me.
Then one day I finally figured out that turning your mind off is impossible. Even serious meditators will tell you that trying to clear your mind is a useless endeavor. Instead of trying to turn OFF the noise in your head, try this exercise.
Turn your awareness to your body. When I saw awareness, I mean - what are you paying attention to? Ok, let me back up. To answer this question, you first have to realize that YOU are something completely separate from your brain and your body. YOU are the thing that pays attention to your brain or your body. YOU are the capacity for awareness. Deep I know, but follow me here.
You can only pay attention to a few things at a time. Think of your attention like a spotlight. You can turn it onto your thoughts or you can turn it down to your body. When you pay attention to something, it gets brighter and louder. When you don’t pay attention to it, it gets quieter and in turn impacts you less.
Let’s take an example. Right now, pay really exquisite attention to your right hand. Feel if it’s cold or hot. Is it heavy or light? Move your index finger, what does that really feel like if you were trying to describe it? When you turned your attention to your finger, did you notice much more than you were noticing previously?
When you turn your attention to your thoughts, they are louder and harder to handle. When you, instead, turn your attention down to your body, your thoughts feel farther away, quieter. You can turn your attention to one part of your body, your foot, a toe, your nose. Or you can just turn your attention to your body as a whole.
I like to think of my attention like sand. When I’m paying more attention to my brain (in mindfulness we call that “In your head”) the sand is in my head. But when I deliberately turn my attention to my body, I picture that sand flowing down out of my head, down my neck, and into my body. I let the sand drift down and feel more and more heavy in my feet or in my butt if I’m sitting.
Try this now. Close your eyes and turn your attention from your head to your body. Get “into your body” as we like to say in mindfulness practice. You can do all this in seconds, just turn your awareness to your body and let go of whatever is happening in your mind.
This exericse is an exerpt from 3 Minutes to Zen, my online series: Get Instant Access