I believe that many of us would be happier and more productive if we could learn to turn our minds off!
What? Blasphemy. Heresy. No, truth.
Proof of this can be found in the number of best selling books that coax, teach, exhort us to do just that:
“Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life”
by Martin E. P Seligman, Ph.D.
“Stillness Speaks” by Eckhart Tolle
“Loving What Is” by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell
“The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Diodge, M.D.
“Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of happiness, Love and Wisdom”
by Hanson, Ph.D., and Mendius, M.D.
Modern research on the brain has centered around the concept of neuroplasticity: Neuroplasticity is a non-specific neuroscience term referring to the ability of the brain and nervous system in all species to change structurally and functionally as a result of input from the environment.
This concept of neuroplasticity opens the door to the idea that – with some effort on our part – we can change the way we think, change how our brain works, change the mind that controls and structures our view of the world and our place in that world.
Hallelujah and zip-a-dee-do-dah!
As Doidge writes, our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains, even into old age. We have heard of the ‘power of positive thinking’, but there is now scientific credibility that moves this concept from the area of self-help into the science section of your favorite book store.
Here is my concern: if, as Byron Katie writes, the root cause of suffering is identification with our thoughts, with the ‘stories’ that are continuously running through our minds like a bad “Groundhog Day”, can the cycle be broken?
On a personal level, this is a constant struggle for me. I have had success with thoughts of gratitude, with nipping a fearful thought in the bud, so to speak. Conversely, I can do a number on myself! The only cure is a relentless attention to what I think…giving myself permission to not believe every thought that runs through my head…knowing that change is possible…fiercely claiming happiness as my right and my purpose. This requires, in part, a faith that ‘what is’ is what is supposed to be and making peace with that without delegating responsibility for myself to some other entity.
U. S. Anderson wrote “Three Magic Words”, another book about changing how we think. He speaks of The Mental Diet. This is a wonderful thirty-day exercise anyone can do and isn’t your health and happiness worth an investment of the next thirty days? The answer to that question is yes!
Here are the steps in Anderson’s Mental Diet:
1. For two days, record all negative thought.
2. For thirty days, first reject all negative thought. (Trudy Evans, C. H., teaches her students and clients to say “Cancel, cancel, cancel” whenever one comes into the mind.)
3. Entertain only positive thoughts of good and abundance.
4. Engage in a daily period of thought control through breathing exercises. (The Navy Seals use breath control as one part of a four-part program to move the brain away from problem solving via the amygdala to use of the frontal lobe.)
5. Meditate every day.
Are we self-fullfilling prophecies? We can be!
“Until you become a master of your thinking, you will never become master of your fate.” U. S. Anderson