Your brain is a constant meaning maker. It takes a stimulus and attaches to it the nearest narrative it can grab hold of. The problem is that your brain’s fastest association with a feeling, urge or idea isn’t necessarily the most helpful or accurate.
For example, every so often I become exceptionally preoccupied with rescuing another animal. This impulse usually comes when life is bursting at the seams, and so as much as I feel compelled to go to the animal shelter, I try to resist. I’ve come to realize that this sense of urgency will pass with time but it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized why it happens in the first place.
When I feel the call to care-take during chapters of stress, it seems my brain most often interprets that urge as the desire to care-take for another. The drive to act on love for others is a neurological pathway well developed over the course of my life, so my brain quickly links “care-take” with “another” and off to the shelter I am inclined to go. However, when I stopped to reconsider what might more appropriately be motivating that feeling, I realized the urge to care-take when I feel depleted is meant to be a call to take care of MYSELF, not someone or something else. Since consciousness about self-care hasn’t been practiced as often as other-care, my brain hadn’t been trained to make that interpretation as readily.
Even though loving and connecting with others is healthy and fulfilling, it was worth slowing down to realize that some of the energy I was eager to give away needed to be given to myself.
I see inaccurate associations between feelings and meaning every day in my practice, ultimately trapping people in old stories and patterns. As a consciously growing and evolving person, you’re bound to have new ideas and experiences your brain doesn’t yet have the programming to interpret. Vigilantly challenge narratives written that may no longer hold value.
What if we trusted life enough to let it surprise us? What if we believed in ourselves enough to be fluid in evolving and adapting? What if we released our assumptions about what should be and more often celebrated the miracle of what is?
These past several days the notion of “surrender” keeps presenting itself—in guided meditations “randomly” chosen, in newsletters from people I admire, and in an email from a dear soul making sure I knew about Michael Singer’s latest book (even if it’s a couple years old).
Singer’s “The Surrender Experiment” artfully unravels the ways in which our fear-based thinking arbitrarily preconceives what is safe, what is acceptable, and what is a life we can relax into living. And as is the case with virtually all our defenses, these efforts to protect our tender egos end up causing needless suffering and hold us back from our greatest potentials.
Each call to surrender—surrender—surrender echoing through my week compels me to relax deeper and deeper into the flow of life. This repetitive messaging, often referred to as synchronicity, is one aspect of the magic of life I’m most intrigued by. When I’m aware enough to notice it happening, it tends to bring both clarity and peace of mind.
Watch for subtle (or not so subtle) synchronistic calls for your attention. I find they usually hold timely and pertinent information to help break free from the limited perspective, or “plans”, our fear-based narratives cling to so dearly.
The untrained mind depletes itself of so much energy needlessly. The machine of fear-based thinking relentlessly grinds through anxieties, what-if’s, reliving the past, and trying to micromanage the future. The mental fatigue caused by this only amplifies any feelings of overwhelm or helplessness.
Mindfulness practices anchoring the mind in the safety and peace of the present are the best protection against these energetic leaks, but most of us haven’t built enough neurological wherewithal for this to be our only line of defense. Which is why ultimately it’s much easier to clean house (literally and figuratively) every now and again so there aren’t as many mental and emotional demands to ward against.
Consider taking notes for an entire day (a week for the most diligent and committed). Catalogue each stressful thought, feeling, and interaction, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. Cringing every time you open your inbox to find an onslaught of promotional emails? Continually procrastinating a coffee date? Loathing some to-do more than the others? Annoyed by clothes in your closet that haven’t been worn in years? Smacked with guilt every time you pass by a struggling houseplant?
Write these observations down without judgment. When the list is compiled, go back through and indentify the underlying reasons each neutral stimulus is being experienced as stressful. You’ll likely find that often it’s connected to some form of avoidance. Ask yourself, what are you choosing to not face at the expense of these chronic debits to your energy?
Is it a fear of confronting limited beliefs about abundance (what if you NEED that t-shirt from 1998 someday); a fear of facing narratives about inadequacy (what would people think if you asked for help); a fear of setting boundaries (would everyone hate you if you admitted you didn’t want to _______)?
These persistent drains on your wellbeing are easier to ignore than the screaming stressors, but they add up and take a toll all the same. Avoiding them, either because you minimize their impact or because you’re scared to resolve the underlying issue, isn’t serving you.
By decluttering your mind of these “minor” annoyances, you reconnect to your empowerment and free your energetic reserves to tackle more inspired and fulfilling challenges