One of the first things we’ll teach you is how to use Mindful techniques to quieten your mind, we’ll show you how to focus your attention and turn down the noise in your head. You’ll quickly discover how lovely it feels to be fully alert and completely alive in the moment, but absolutely free of thought. Learning how to quieten your mind is wonderful, it’s the most liberating thing that you can do. Imagine being able to switch off from your worries, your problems and irritations, whenever you choose. Imagine what a relief it is to get a rest from the noise in your head.
But that’s only just the start really because being able to quieten your mind opens up so many other possibilities. It literally puts you in control of yourself, because as you learn to quieten your mind you will find that you can stand back and observe your own thoughts.
Rather than always being compelled to go where your thoughts take you, you’ll quickly develop the ability to choose where you put your attention. If a thought is useful to you, you may choose to give it your attention and develop that thought, but if a thought is not helpful you may simply choose to observe that thought and let it go.
Very quickly you will see that not all of your thinking is helpful to you. You’ll see that much of the thinking we do day to day, is useless and repetitive you’ll see the same old thoughts over and over again, and more importantly you’ll see that a large proportion of your thinking is not only useless – it is downright destructive. You will quickly see that most of the painful negative emotions that we all experience are caused by our thinking. Most of the worry, the guilt, the regrets, the disappointments, the anger, the frustration and anxiety that we suffer day to day is not caused by what is happening in reality, here and now, but is in fact caused by what is going on in our heads. Anxious thinking triggers anxious feelings, angry thoughts cause anger, guilty thinking causes guilt, and thinking about your losses brings up feelings of loss and disappointment. Maybe as much as 90% of the emotional pain that we experience on a day to day basis is a direct result of the thoughts in our head! You cannot worry your way out of your anxiety because the worry thoughts cause anxiety! That angry conversation in your head won’t relieve your anger- it will make it worse! Do you get the idea? Mindfulness allows you to choose.
By learning how to observe your thoughts you can choose not to go to the places in your head that hurt you. If you are a persistent worrier you can learn how to let go of the worry thoughts, if you are angry you can let go of the angry thoughts, if you’re thinking keeps repeating disappointments, losses or injustice you can choose to let go of these thoughts and free yourself of the emotional pain attached to them. It does not stop you dealing with real problems as they happen. It simply means that you do not have to carry about all that baggage. This makes dealing with real problems a great deal easier and makes solutions appear much clearer.
If you are not doing all the thinking which generates all these negative emotions you will feel a whole lot better, won’t you? And this leaves you free to start to really enjoy your life. And because mindfulness is about paying full attention to your life, you’ll quickly discover how much more intensely alive you feel and how you’re experience of life is heightened. With a bit of little practice, you may even find that you are happy. Happy for no reason! Happy because you choose to be! Mindfulness is taking mainstream psychology by storm and there are now numerous studies which prove it to be highly effective in treating depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, OCD, post-traumatic stress and pretty well all neurotic disorders. Fortunately you don’t need to be ill to benefit, it’s enough to just want to be happy.
Happy people are healthy people!
There is no gentle way to put this, but unhappy people are generally unhealthy people, they smoke more, drink more, eat poorly, take less exercise and generally don’t look after themselves. Unhappy people are more prone to obesity, addictions, and a whole host of illnesses and disease, and to top it all, they tend to die younger.
But beyond the obvious in how mood affects behaviour, there is ever increasing evidence that your thoughts directly affect your health. Mainstream medicine is at last discovering what we many of us have intuitively known all along. Your mind and body are connected. Of course they are that is why you have a neck!
Your body is constantly responding to the thoughts in your head. When you have a worry thought, your body responds to that thought, it releases stress chemicals called cortisol and adrenaline. Your body prepares it’s self for what psychologist call “fight or flight”. It is preparing to defend its self from attack, which if you are genuinely in danger would be very helpful to you. If you were alone in the room with a very hungry monster, to have those stress chemicals rushing around in your body could save your life, but not so helpful when those chemicals are keeping you awake at night when you are perfectly safely tucked up in bed. When your body is not responding to a real threat, a monster in the room, but is responding to a thought, just a monster in your head!
The vast majority of the time that our bodies are awash with these “fight or flight” chemicals there is really is no danger, and our bodies are not designed to be permanently functioning at such chronically high levels of stress. I don’t want to give you anything else to worry about, but chronic stress is really bad for your health. It can cause persistent headaches, it interferes with the immune system making you more susceptible to colds and flu and long term stress causes more serious problems including, but are not limited to: – depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, sexual dysfunction, tooth and gum disease, ulcers and possibly even cancer. In fact, it’s been estimated that as many as 90% of doctor’s visits are for symptoms that are at least partially stress-related! Likewise, high levels of pent up anger and frustration have long been connected to heart disease and, research shows that anger can thicken your arteries! I’m pretty damn sure we’ll discover one day that high levels of guilt, jealousy and other “mind made” negative emotions are really bad for your health too.
You see, your body doesn’t get the difference between what is real and what is really just a thought, it responds to them just the same. Which is way it is so important to be mindful of our thoughts. The Mindful techniques we’ll teach you have been shown to trigger what neurologist call the “relaxation response” which is your body’s natural process for dealing with stress. As you learn how to quieten your mind, you can become mindful of your thoughts and with practice you can choose not to perpetuate these harmful emotional states by choosing to let go of the thinking which drives them. Can you imagine the possibilities for your health? More and more, you can simply choose to be at peace and allow your body to rebalance and function in the healthy way it was designed to.
There is increasing evidence that mindfulness can even be a cure for existing health problems and I’ve personally worked with people who have used mindfulness to get relief from, and in some cases completely overcome, serious pre–existing health conditions, including, psoriasis, depression, kidney disease, and addictions, as well an effective tool for pain control. One day it will be understood that having a healthy mind is as least as important to your physical health as a good diet and exercise.
There is so much more to your intelligence than the type of intelligence measured in IQ tests. In fact that language based “thinking type” cognitive intelligence only makes up 5% – 10% of your total brain capacity. Most people only use a tiny proportion of their brain and although they may be very intelligent in conventional terms they may be lacking in common sense or in their social awareness or struggle to be original or creative. In fact some of the most stupid people I’ve ever met are academics.
Most highly successful people tend to have broader aspects to their intelligence; they often have a highly developed emotional intelligence, and are able to come up with new ideas or solutions. They can “think outside the box” and are likely to be very intuitive and creative.
A few years ago Scientists did a large study on Zen monks (who practice mindfulness and meditation) they wired them up to electrodes and scanned their brains and found some very interesting things. They found that the monks had developed a mastery of their own brain. They seemed to able to turn down the language, thinking part of their brain, which is the front left cortex in right handed people and the front right cortex in left handed people. (From now on I’m going to assume that everyone is right handed or it will get really confusing) The monks were also able to activate the front right cortex of their brains; they showed much higher levels of right brain activity in areas of the brain associated with higher aspects of intelligence, creative ability and intuition. Areas of the brain associated with wellbeing and happiness were also very active and they appeared to have developed the remarkable ability to use their right and left brains together when problem solving. They had learned how to think with insight which is a really useful skill.
As your Mindful practice develops, you will also be able to access this quiet but highly intelligent part of your brain. By turning down the noise you’ll quickly find that you can begin to observe what psychologist call “your conditioning”. You will begin to see your automatic responses, your belief systems, your theories and assumptions. You will start to see how your perception of reality has come into being, you will start to see how your life experiences, your culture, your parenting, your education and even the books you’ve read and the TV you watch all go to inform your perception of reality. And you will see how once formed, this perception becomes an obstacle to ever experiencing, learning or growing outside of this reality. It’s a prison in your own mind!
Through observing your conditioning you will soon be able to simply choose to override it when appropriate. If your conditioning for example makes you defensive when criticised, you may watch this in yourself and find you are more open to criticism, and act upon it when appropriate. If your conditioning tells you that you can’t achieve or that you are no good at something. You may choose to observe and override it, removing forever a block to your success. As your Mindful practice develops you will begin to see that your perception of reality is just that – a perception, and not the truth. A perception informed by your conditioning and you don’t have to stick with it. If parts of your conditioning no-longer work for you, you can simply let them go.
Aspects of your condition which limit you and hold you back, or prevent you from getting the most from your life, can simply be observed with your higher intelligence and dumped when appropriate. You can remove your stumbling blocks and be free to allow your life to flow and develop without the limitations you have placed on yourself. This in the East, this is called “transcending the self” or “liberation” and to be anchored in this higher state of intelligence is called Enlightenment. But even being able to just access this intelligence for a few moments is totally transforming because as it allows you to adjust your perception according to reality as it is presented to you now, rather than being stuck in a perception which no longer works for you and is based upon nothing more than your history. You will begin to transcend your conditioning and free yourself of its limitations. You will become much smarter, more insightful, more creative, intuitive and adaptable. And even if you don’t achieve enlightenment like the Zen master, you will have the most powerful tool imaginable for dealing effectively with the fast changing and unpredictable world, in which we now live.