The Science of Getting To Know Yourself
Mindfulness, Metacognition, and Coaching - Finding The Right Practice For You
It's a buzzword for sure - Mindfulness - but what is it? It can be defined as self-realization, awareness, and metacognition, but in short, its thinking about thinking.
Okay. Pause for a moment. Take a moment to listen to your thoughts. Are you hungry and thinking about what you'd like to eat? Are you tired and maybe a little cranky from lack of sleep? Are you happy as you read this, and finding yourself interested? That, right there - you're noticing your thoughts and emotions, yeah? That's it! That's mindfulness, or metacognition. Not so mystical or woo-woo as it may sometimes seem, yeah?
But just becoming aware of your thoughts for that moment doesn't lend to a full mindfulness practice, even if, for a moment, you were mindful. Here's what practicing mindfulness entails...
Past, Present, and Future
It's a pretty widely held concept in science now that time is a fluid concept. You can experience this in your own mind when you think of memories, or something you're going to do in the future. You haven't time traveled in either case, but you have experienced different pieces of time in each instance. While neither prospective or retrospective thinking is a bad thing, it can disrupt our inner peace if something we think of is unpleasant. What about when you start repeating things over and over again in your heard? You can compound the effects of these thoughts this way, while detracting from being immersed in the present moment.
Tip: Do you find yourself with racing thoughts? Try this simple and effective grounding technique-
Sit with your feet flat on the ground and take a few nice, deep, slow breaths. Then look around you and find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You don't have to necessarily smell or taste anything - but vividly imagine what that sense's engagement would be for each object. This practice takes less than a minute and reestablishes the nervous system back in the present from the chaotic fight-or-flight instincts that may have been triggered in it from whatever was in your mind.
It's All In Our Heads - Literally
Often, we find ourselves wondering why something happened the way it did, or how thankful we are that something occurred. Now some of this has to do with manifestation; like attracts like, and if you're always walking around thinking only bad things will happen to you, that's what will occur. The same goes for feeling grateful and hopeful. Obviously this isn't the case 100% of the time, and sometimes we will still find ourselves down on our luck, in a fight with a friend, or just feeling out of sorts. This is where the read test of mindfulness comes into play.
You cannot control what happens to you, but you absolutely can control every single aspect of how you react to that. Reread that. Again. And again. Read it until it rings true and your ego no longer tries to make you believe otherwise, because guess what - you control your reality. Isn't that awesome?? You have the final word in everything! So how do you want to play it out? Shrug, laugh, and walk on? Or become enraged or morose and have your day ruined? The choice is yours, and that decision process and corresponding thought patterns are what we practice for in mindfulness.
Alright, it's not that simple, and I get it. I don't care how often I meditate and drink tea and smile, there are some things that get under my skin. But in mindfulness, we notice the emotions that rise up from these situations without becoming wrapped up in them. Usually, something upsets us because something in our past has taught or conditioned us to respond in a certain way. This could be one event, a held belief, or a repeated series of the two, and now our present selves are conditioned to respond certain ways to things. The end result is emotion, sometimes very powerful, on one end of the spectrum or the other. The feel goods aren't harmful, but the other end of that spectrum... well, that's why we practice noticing emotion without becoming attached.
Think back to a fight with a friend, a disagreement with a coworker, maybe even just a good ol' fashioned Facebook comment war (it's cool, we've all been there). Notice how you feel when you bring up those memories, now try to step away from that emotion, as if you were a bystander watching the event. Can you dig underneath the layers of emotion to find the root cause? Was it a fight with a best friend in childhood that taught you never to trust? Or bullying in school? Did a past partner hurt you deeply? Are you projecting any of this past baggage into the moment? I'd bet you are, if you look deeply enough. And if you can't see the root, then a Mindfulness Coach will be able to work with you to resolve that root cause.
The point of a mindfulness practice is to use studied techniques for staying in the present moment, noticing negative thoughts or emotions without becoming them, identifying blockages that stop of from reaching our full potential, and living better! That's it. We practice mindfulness to enjoy the moment, to stop negativity from impacting us as much, and to live our lives to the fullest.
"Whatever forms of meditation you practice, the most important point is to apply mindfulness continuously, and make a sustained effort. It is unrealistic to expect results from meditation within a short period of time. What is required is continuous sustained effort." – HH 14th Dalai Lama
Exercises for Mindfulness
The easiest way to notice your thoughts is, surprise surprise, meditation. Meditation is the practice of noticing the mind. That doesn't mean stopping your thoughts (a biological impossibility, actually, and not something you should ever make a goal for meditation), but watching them. I like to tell my students to imagine their thoughts like leaves drifting on a stream. You can stand on the bank and notice and appreciate each leaf, but it would be silly to jump in the water and disrupt the flow to try to grab on to just one.
Meditation can be done a number of ways. Traditional seating or lying guided meditations through apps like Oak or Headspace are great for beginners. You can find lots of styles of guided meditations online, too. Then there is moving meditation, which is actually what a lot of people (including myself) find easier. Letting go of your thoughts and letting them flow freely through repetitive or guided movement is very easy to achieve. Many people take yoga classes for this exact purpose. I like to pop my headphone in, go for a run, and just let my brain process whatever it needs to. Alternatively, you can practice mindful awareness meditation - also lovingly called sometimes "meditation of doing dishes" or "meditation of cleaning." The goal is to be wholly present and experience everything you do with every sense possible in order to ground yourself into the present moment.
Coloring and drawing have also become popular practice of mindfulness. Coloring focuses on each color and shape, and has an extremely calming effect on the nervous system. Drawing or "mindful doodling" can be done by absently drawing lines, shapes, or pictures at random to help express the inner landscape of the mind. More specific practices and techniques are often used to uproot and eliminate deep seated limiting beliefs, but should be practiced with the guidance of an experienced coach.
A limiting belief, simply put, is a thought that stops us from realizing our full potential. It's a road block in life, but it only exists in our minds. Last year, I went mountain biking for the first time with my husband. I was SO excited... and true to form I crashed very badly on my first run, landed myself in the hospital, and had some nasty soft-tissue injuries (go big or go home, right?). I was fortunate and unharmed, aside from soreness and bruises that would have done Jackson Pollock proud. I thought, no big deal - I've been riding bikes my whole life, I'll wait until I feel a little better and go try again. Well, that accident mentally jammed me up, and I found my heart racing just sitting in the saddle when I went to ride a flat course. I got to a little gravel and had to hold back tears and shrieks of terror. This wasn't me! I'd done far harder courses, and I was in control of the bike this time. So what the heck? Why did my body freeze up? Shortly after, I noticed that even on a road bike I was uncomfortable when I'd never been before. A few days later at the gym, dynamic movements like jumping or power lifts were no longer possible. I psyched myself out of each attempt and couldn't perform movements I'd done a thousand times.
What I was experiencing was a limiting belief: I did not trust myself. I had tried to do something that resulted in an accident that scared me, and my mind was trying to protect me by putting the belief in my head that I no longer trusted myself in order to keep me from doing something else potentially dangerous. Was I actually in danger? No, probably not. But that limiting belief had formed and was camped out right in my mind without any intention of leaving. I had to acknowledge my limiting belief (my lack of trust), ascertain the root cause of this belief (fear from the accident), and work to release that belief so that I was free of its impacts (reestablish trust through neuroplasticity thought changes and reestablishing self-trust). It took a while but the end result was me having a better relationship with myself than ever before, having more confidence in my abilities, and returning to take on more epic (and borderline stupid) adventures.
Find Your Coach
You have limiting beliefs. I know this because you're human. Over the course of our lives, we establish limiting beliefs without even knowing it. It could manifest as repeated negative thoughts, self-doubts or criticisms, lack of confidence or trust, feeling like you're not being heard, or feeling confined by time or resources, incomplete, or less-than. Yes, these are all symptoms of limiting beliefs. These guys are so powerful that they reshape your reality without you even realizing what's happening! But as you become more aware of your own inner dialogue you'll start to notice negative patterns or behaviors from limiting beliefs.
Honestly, this is the time to be SUPER excited.
You've found a gateway to a better you. Yeah, you have to defeat the monsters and scale the volcano and find the secret passageway to unlock the door - but oh, it's so worth it, because when you do BAM! New you. New outlook. New reality. It's like... leveling up in your favorite video game. You've taken on the challenge and overcome the obstacle and now you're that much stronger and faster and better than before. Each time you release a limiting belief, you get closer to living your dream life. Seriously. Because when there's nothing holding you back... well, just think about it.
I won't lie, this process can get messy. And it's usually one you want support on along the way. Enter the Mindfulness Coach (that's me, in case you missed that). Mindfulness Coaches are certified in this whole process and untangling you from the choke-hold of those limiting beliefs. Working with a certified coach will benefit in you decreased stress, improved relationships with yourself and others, better productivity, clearer head, better focus, improved health (yes, really), and an overall improvement in lifestyle. We are powerful tools to have in your corner. The Robin to your Batman. The Navi to your Link. The root beer to your ice cream. I'm not entirely sure that last one makes sense, but just like coaches and you they are better together.
IMPORTANT: You need to like your coach! If you don't, why would you open up to them? Spend some time getting to know one another before committing to a program. Most coaches offer consultations for exactly that reason. P.S. my consultations are complimentary :) Also remember that mindfulness coaching is not a substitute for psychiatry, psychotherapy, or talk therapy. They do, however, work very well together, and many counselors and therapists are now recommending mindfulness coaching in conjunction with treatment programs.
Ready To Unlock Your Full Potential?
I am here for your journey and never more than a few clicks away. If you'd like to start your own Mindfulness Coaching, or even just get more information on the process, Contact Me Now, and we'll get your superhero origin story started. You already have everything you need inside of you. I'll show you how to unlock your full potential