Life Happens Here
Have you noticed how quickly the mind wonders, thoughts splinter and multiply, especially when you sit quietly or try go to sleep? It feels that it is just at these moments that the true nature of our 'monkey brain' finds its purpose.
We've all been there, we've all felt the frustration that an unfiltered ad scattered thought process brings. One moment you were focused on a task and the next you're 15 years old again steeped in the insecurities of your own memory. This frustration, however, in my opinion, is the least of the problems. Along with the rapid fire distractibility, comes the changes in sensory and emotional states. As soon as our endocrine system gets activated through a thought or a memory, our internal defenses kick into gear triggering deep seated beliefs which are often critical, fearful, punitive and restrictive. In a few moments you went from dealing with a present day task into a past that somehow felt unfinished, shameful and regretful or into a future filled with insecurities and fears. We forget though, that as real as these journeys seem to be, life really only happens here.
It's not our fault this tricky brain of ours gets caught in loops. There is an innate drive to survive at any cost. In fact, negative, fearful events take precedence and importance in the way our brain stores, learns and retrieves this potentially life saving information. We are wired to get stuck in the negative loops that bifurcate into myriad of directions and that stem from the fear of rejection, abandonment and of course, fear of imminent death (in most cases, change, the unknown can be also felt as a type of death).
It's not our fault our tricky brain gets stuck, distracts us or derails us, it's actually doing its job. Its job is to keep us safe and to make sure we remember all the ways in which we are currently not safe, all the ways in which we could get hurt. Add to this the charge of the emotional and physical/sensory system (which reinforces the circuit of these loops) and we have a clad tight response that stands the test of time.
What can we do? I mean, as much as AI is rushing us towards some kind of 'evolution', we're still carrying with us the reptilian and mammalian brain systems and their fearful corresponding responses. We continue to create systems based on these primal fears of survival, competition and 'strongest of the fittest' outdated mentalities. We continue to seek commonality by keeping others out, we create systems we call 'successful' even though they are designed to eradicate originality, sustainability and diversity and we continually and obsessively wage wars to find peace. It's no wonder our tricky brains are active, fear is the ground this outer world sits on and the fuel that it burns.
So I ask again, what can we do? How can we slow down our tricky loopy brain, how can we recognize the themes that sidetrack us, the triggers that kick us right out of the present into the uncertain future or into the well rehearsed still painful beliefs and emotions of our distant past or our idea of our distant past. Whatever and however we choose to move back into the present, it is only through practice, tried and true, over and over again kind of practice that will help to rewire this tricky brain of ours.
Here are some ideas that might help this process, bring awareness to the loops and help ground you back into the present, where life is continuously happening.
Recognize when you went off into a loop.
Name it...'I'm in a thought loop now. I'm in the past or projecting to a future.'
Identify the trigger, 'This situation is tough, it hurts, it reminds me of....no wonder I felt triggered.'
Access compassion for yourself, your present self that's having to recognize this process and the past self who actually lived it.'
Remind yourself that you were a child when these beliefs were created.
Recognize how ingenious and courageous that child was to have lived through things by themselves and to have come up with defenses and beliefs that could help.
Access compassion for the child self and the restrictive, protective, critical beliefs it came up with in order to survive.
Recognize the fleeting nature of the thoughts as it scrambles for meaning.
Breathe slowly in and slowly out. Breath in a ratio breath, 3 counts in, 5 counts on the exhale.
Move, stretch, shake yourself out.
Bring your attention back to the task at hand, slowly and gently and keep nudging your attention back to the task as many times as needed.
Keep breathing mindfully and intentionally and each time a thought, a memory, a sensation or belief hijack you to the past, or propels you to the future, notice it, name it, allow it without judgment, love it and remind it...'i see, it's ok, and let's come back, life happens here.'