Stilling the mind and the secret power of mental traps

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Meditation can yield spectacular insights about ourselves and the nature of the universe. It also often brings awareness of the patterns we repeat in our minds. Time and time again, we find ourselves alighting on thoughts that look suspiciously like loops. These are the backing tapes of the conscious mind and they often go something like this:

anatomy of a mental trap

These traps often focus on current situations in our lives, work worries, romance worries, issues of powerlessness and frustration. These are the ‘problems’ that are the easiest to fixate on, but more often than not the fixation results only in stress, in an escalation of tension, in the metaphoric banging of heads against brick walls, and not in anything remotely resembling solutions. As Einstein said:

We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.

The worry often seems to emerge out of nowhere, or from the stillness of meditation itself. The bored mind, in uncharted waters stalks its next dopamine fix: “This is a problem… I should do something.” This rarely ends well. In fact, this kind of bored mind is not particularly good at coming up with solutions. Solutions often come from somewhere else entirely, some deep unknowable unconscious room… [or other more appropriate esoteric metaphor].

Anyway, with meditation, the idea is to go on dropping out of these traps, right? So they emerge and we recognise them and then go back to whatever practice we were attempting. We go back to focusing on our breathing or whatever. But sometimes there is actually a great opportunity here to deepen awareness, to deepen practice and to go meta on this stuff. Sometimes it happens accidentally. The conscious/beta mind is being dropped, the repetitive patterns of tension/traps are recognised and then we catch a glimpse of a bigger picture, of a bigger pattern.

The normal conscious beta mind can’t really do this, you need an altered state. But when you do get a glimpse here it is a beautiful and rare moment of clarity, of seeing the forest for the trees, of realising that most of the time we are just looking at a couple of pixels out of a massive screen and interpreting the world from a ridiculously narrow perspective. It’s interesting that it is the traps themselves that often provide a gateway for this kind of experience. The tension they create – the tension of contradiction – provides a platform for noticing… and a potentially transformative space.

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Just breathe

Mandala by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Mandala by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/


A recipe for slow and lasting transformation:

Breathe…
Relax….
Release…
Let go

Things get complicated sometimes.

There may be too many things going on inside your head, inside your life.

There may be too many restrictions, tensions, walls.

There may be no room to expand, or find peace, amid the whirlwind.

I wonder how much of this is a state of mind, how much is actually external.

It seems to always be an interaction.

Inner/Outer

When the tensions begin to impact, and the neural feedback is largely negative, something has to change.

It can feel impossible… trying to change the world around us, but there are always little things, baby steps: decluttering, taking out the trash, clearing and cleaning…

Making small commitments, that can be upheld…

Doing the things, because there are always little things, that let our brains know that we can be rewarded, now.

Making a list and checking things off can help.

When we see the same patterns over and over again in the outside world, it may be time for an inner shift.

How do we make inners shift?

Choices… always choices.

Every thought is a choice.

Every breath can be conscious…

Increasing awareness… holding tensions… letting go.

Find the root of noxious weedy thoughts and dig them out.

Breathe in through the nose for four seconds
Hold the breath for seven seconds
Breathe out through the mouth for eight seconds
Let
Go

Replace the old weeds with more productive and aesthetic alternatives:

I love myself
I love my life
This is the life I want to live
I am good enough

Removing psychic splinters

I have written before about untangling projections and nursing the primal wound, letting go of baggage and peeling back layers… but it’s an ongoing process, right.

Lately something has been triggered for me, but I’m not exactly sure what it is or how to deal with it. In this vague, ambiguous state I feel a bit stuck. What is holding me back? It isn’t big or dramatic. It isn’t agonising. It’s more like a splinter in my chest – of fear or doubt, of past pain. Like a physical splinter, it is inflammatory. For me it is connected with insecure attachment issues and feeling vulnerable… but probably, you have something like this too – that might come up at some point in your life, triggered by someone being a dick or not answering your text messages or something.

Western society is not particularly good at emotions – probably because it is founded on denial and a false dichotomy between the body and mind – which is, ironically not very scientific… so we might as well develop processes to deal with our emotions, right? This is something I just made up, and as a qualified hypnotherapist, I’m totally allowed – this also means when you read it you can make the voice in your head sound very relaxed and hypnotic 🙂

As we know, to clean emotional wounds you need to focus on them. It’s not pleasant, but it’s important work if you actually want to get over something. Focus on the sensation and where it is in the body. It might feel uncomfortable.

Focus… focus…
When your attention slips, that’s okay, just focus again.

It’s a bit like a surgeon, or a mum removing a splinter from a child’s foot.

Focus.

Can you name the feeling?
Let it well up
Submerge yourself in it.
Keep focussed.

What’s underneath?
Let it well up again – feel it out – go through the middle… again…
that centre of the splinter…
the eye of the storm…
splitting discomfort
fear/pain/trauma

Separate this from anything external. This is part of you. It’s all about you.

Focus.
Focus.
Feel it.

Has it moved?
Has it shifted?
Sneaky little splinter.

You could keep distracting yourself – numbing the pain with facebook or beer or movies or whatever floats your boat, but unless you really get in there and focus it will stay there – keeping you stuck.

Stretch from side to side.
Focus.
As you focus it may grow or diminish…
maybe both, alternately.
It may hide and re-emerge.

Eventually it may crystalise so you can see the damn thing.
What is it?
A fleck of wood?
A shard of glass?
A prickle?
A dagger?
A mighty spear?
How big is it?
What colour?
What does it look like?
Does it change?

Distractions are important coping mechanisms – let them come and go.
Re-focus every time.

What more can you find buried here?
Memories?
Baggage?

Focus

Stretch

Focus

Walk it out…

Go for a walk alone, in as peaceful place as possible, with as much of a clear horizon as possible…

…and feel.

Every time your mind drifts off,
Bring it back.
Keep doing it until you can figure out how to remove the splinter.

Then you can just leave it alone and let it heal.