“I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you!”
In my circle of creative, intuitive and highly intelligent friends, one of the most common things I hear is how habitual thought interferes with creating a joyful life. I hear, “I know what I want to do but I keep self-sabotaging” or “I know I’m being self-critical and negative but I’ve been doing that for years.”
Thoughts, in and of themselves are not bad, but when we’re are not paying attention, thoughts become habitual, loud and boisterous, drawing us into a trance of sorts. We fall asleep at the wheel of life. No longer really “awake” to life, we become like zombies. Believing all our thoughts to me, is the creativity killer número uno!
Most Common “Unawake” Thoughts
I’ve noticed 3 types of thoughts that are characteristically going on while I’m not “awake”:
1) Thoughts based on beliefs, which were taught to us by someone else who at that time, believed their own thoughts. (e.g. “I’ll never learn how to do that if I don’t stop procrastinating. I’m always so behind!”)
2) Thoughts that are subconscious habits, created from of painful life situations. (We are particularly “asleep” during these thoughts which end up to us doing things like letting people play head games with us or being sucked into spending time with negative people).
3) Fear-based thoughts that are just plain human conditioning. (“Oh my God, if I can’t do X, then Y will happen, then Z will happen then ….”)
As humans, we are programmed to default to thought type #3 -thoughts about what could go wrong. This comes mostly from prehistoric days. The amygdala, the part of the limbic system of the brain that assesses for safety/danger 24/7, kept us alive when we were being chased by wild animals in search of food. Again, none of these thoughts are bad! To say that and judge the thoughts is not helpful.
Children are our best examples of how to change this pattern. Watch a child and you’ll see them experiencing life as each moment unfolds. You see more joy in children overall. They want to have fun! They don’t want to grow up learning the skill of trance thinking, nor should they have to. Nor do we have to continue … if we learn to watch our thoughts.
How To Watch Your Thoughts
1) Learn to meditate – it’s mental training for your thoughts. I highly recommend meditation. There’s no better practice for learning how to strengthen the mind. Zen Habits offers some compelling reasons why you should start meditation even if you only have 2 minutes to spare.
2) Write your thoughts. I’m a huge advocate of writing your thoughts first thing in the morning. Zen Habits also offers another strong case in favor of writing daily to release thought patterns.
Here are some more specific ways I’ve learned to stop trance thinking and question my thoughts during the day. I learned this through educational material via experts in the topic of mindful awareness.
1) Wake up out of the trance and notice! Notice that I’m thinking and stop right there. Take three deep breaths and connect with the feeling in my hands and feet. Why hands and feet? I feel the life in me and it reminds me to be here RIGHT now.
2) Give a name to what is happening. “Oh, this is fear“, or “Oh, this is frustration again“, or “Oh, I’m criticizing myself“. Don’t judge it at all. Only name it.
3) Go back to whatever creative task it was that you were doing. Gently tell yourself to move forward, live and PLAY like a kid!
4) Rinse, lather, repeat. Practice noticing and naming your thoughts as often as possible.
This takes a lot of practice, but little effort. It’s very simple, but most of us find it extremely difficult. I have kept at it as often as possible and I’m seeing some pretty big results, so if you are interested in trying it, it’s a great way to experience life exactly as it is without falling into the black abyss of unconscious thinking. Our lives will become more joyous and spontaneous.