As a follow up to yesterday on how to stay present the idea “you are what you think” popped into my mind. So naturally I googled it. I was surprised how much exists on this topic dating all the way back to Buddha. So what gives? How come so many of us still get lost in our thoughts? Why do we think we are limited? Why do we berate ourselves? Why do we stay distracted with meaningless thoughts? Why do we create illusions about our limitations and then argue for them? No I really can’t. I am so broken. I am sick. My family has this gene. I was just born this way. I am not responsible. I can’t change this; that is just crazy talk.
“Attitude is everything. It’s what makes the difference between those who succeed and those who fail. And it’s easy to see in other people. It’s not as easy to recognize when our own attitude needs adjustment, or to know how to change it” – You Are What You Think, David Stoop.
I came across a study by Yale University that gave the same milkshakes to patients which were mislabeled “health conscious” and “indulgent”. Researchers then measured the subjects’ ghrelin level; a hormone that stimulates a hunger response. Patients actually became more satisfied when they thought they ate the “indulgent” shake .
Their perception or thought was powerful enough to change a chemical reaction in their body.
Breakthroughs in neuroscience gives paralyzed patients a way to transmit thoughts into commands using brain signals to control a computer or even a robot.
Neuroscience has also revealed that when we create “toxic thinking” patterns, our actions produce neurochemical, and molecular, changes in cells known as neurons. This complex neuronetwork fires chemicals and creates pathways for life that govern our behavior.
“It takes a thought to spark an emotion, or drive a decision to take an action or to take no action at all. And emotions give meaning to thoughts; they are the spark. In the words of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, are “a telltale sign of consciousness.” – Dr. Athena Staik
So what does all this mean for our life? We know our thoughts have power. So how do we change them? What is the key to change those chemicals responses and develop new paths? How do we create and obtain a steady state in the present moment? I’m going to move away from neuroscience, Yale and Stanford and share a simple technique I personally used to change my life.
I wake up. The ‘to do list’ starts running. What about the kids, the play, the costumes, the tooth fairy? With intent I pull my mind to right now. I am joyful. Mind wanders to legal issues on the edge of my desk. With intent I pull my mind to right now. I am joyful. Breathe deep. Stay present. I am joyful. Thoughts of the person I felt betrayed me and broke my trust. With intent pull my mind to right now. I am joyful. Breathe deep. Stay present. I am joyful. This person is angry and hostile. I am joyful. Stay present. Look past the anger. Think loving thoughts. Recognize their reaction as fear. Smile. I am joyful. They see me smile. They start to lower their voice. I am joyful. Keep smiling. They are no longer hostile. They are calming down. I have said nothing. I have done everything.
Keep smiling. With intent pull my mind to right now. I am joyful. OMG I am freaking out and so scared how is this ever going to work out. With intent pull my mind to right now. I am joyful. I will fold this laundry with joy. I will pay this bill with joy. I will breath this fresh air into my lungs with joy. I am joyful. There are green trees outside my window. The trees are joyful. There is someone behind me in line. The people are joyful. Smile. Breath. I am joyful. My mind wanders to a painful event. With intent I bring my mind to a joyful event.
My mind wants to hang onto that pain, to analyze it, to pull it apart and dissect it. It does not work. No answers come. I see this now. I let go.
Another thought comes. How will I fix this problem? Breath. Smile. I am joyful. A solution will present itself. I relax. I trust. I let go. I focus on the present. I am joyful. Everything will work out. I am really pissed. With intent I choose to smile at everyone I see anyway. I allow myself to be present. I put down the phone. I sit with these uncomfortable feelings. I smile. I breath. With intent I think I am joyful. At times I feel joyful. At times, the answers come quickly. There are small moments when I suffer. What was I thinking? Oh yes I was in the past. I am here now. Smile. Breath. With intent come back to now. I am joyful.
There were days I had to do this ten times. One hundred times. One thousand times.
There were days I failed. My mind just wanted to dwell and obsess over the ‘problem’. No answers came. I suffered more. The mind found more problems. I wanted peace. With intent I kept going. I wanted to stop. Sometimes I gave up. Then one day I noticed the anxiety was gone. Then one day I noticed the depression was gone. The panic attacks stopped. The post traumatic stress which resulted in a temporary leave from school went away. I was 21 when I did this. I was 21 when I learned I could change my state. My attention span at 21 was short. I did not stick with it. I forgot. Now I’m 41. I remember. I live in peace most of the time. I freak out. I vent. Then I smile. I breath. I think ‘I am joyful’. Most of the time others describe me as joyful. They say I am often “intense”. I do not become defensive. I smile. With intent I think I am joyful. Sometimes I cry. The tears fall. I let them fall. Sadness washes over me. I let sadness wash over me. I smile. I thank the tears. I give thanks for my life. I smile. With intent I am joyful. I may never master staying in perfect state. I can master it perfectly right now. I am joyful. I want to share joy. I want to be joy. I want to live in joy. Smile. Breath. I am joyful. I am here with you. You may not know me, but you know joy. Smile. Breath. I am joyful.
“What you think you become.” – Mohandas Gandhi