By Debbie Crinzi
For a driver, bright lights are helpful to illuminate the road so it stands out clearly on dark nights. Road debris can be avoided. You can see details much better with your brights. Use these lights when you don’t have a clear map for where you are going and when you sense anxiety rising. You also need them when feelings plummet and your body is tired—when emotions cloud your mind.
In the last blog we talked about turning the bright lights on. This involved relaxing your body and calming your mind. The truth is that our mind becomes our worst enemy. When problems arise, the mind creates a lot of chaos trying to out-think the problem. In order to hear even ourselves, we have to quiet the mind all the stories we are creating that increase anxiety and despair. We turn our lights on by relaxing our facial muscles, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. We concentrate on our breath – breathing in and out — until only the breathing in and out occupies our brain. When sneaky thoughts filter back, set them aside and go back to focused breath. After you are able to concentrate on your breath despite stray thoughts distracting you, it is time for the next step. Now bring into your thoughts something beautiful and meaningful.
Step Two involves switching lights into brighter lights by reminding yourself that you have much to appreciate and be thankful for. Your worries are just one piece of a whole life. Take your calmed mind and focus on something beautiful or peaceful. For some people it is the image of the object of religious worship; for others, it will be a close person or a pet who is special to them; for yet others, perhaps a place such as a personal garden, the ocean or the mountains – a place representing joy and beauty. For someone else it will be saying an inspirational chant, prayer, song, or poem.
Which is it for you? Take some time right now. Choose something that makes you happy. Relive the experience in your mind, dwelling upon the things that make you smile. Acknowledge these positive memories. Surround yourself with them. Again, you are in charge of your mind. If sneaky, anxious thoughts creep in, consciously set them aside and go back to these joyful memories.
Until you take charge of your thoughts, it is difficult to think rationally without strong emotion tearing you down. You need this time of calming, then of rejoicing, before you are ready to listen to yourself reflect and work out issues and concerns. So take the time. Remember, controlling your mind instead of allowing it to control you is a habit that only occurs through practice. You don’t need to wait for crises to rain down upon you to practice. Take a moment each day to relax yourself, focus your mind on breath, and then fill your mind with happy experiences.
By Debbie Crinzi
Reflection is a critical part of making life better and happier. I compare the process of reflection to using your bright lights when driving. When you have good habits that keep you on track and the world around you is clear and understandable, you don’t feel the need to use your bright lights. However, when problems arise and unhappiness ensues that is the time to turn them on.
The first step towards reflection involves turning on your bright lights. I often look for a quiet place to be alone where whether sitting, standing, or lying down I can deliberately relax every part of the body – starting with facial muscles, moving to neck, shoulder, neck, arms and hands. Then I focus on calm, even breathing. Sometimes I have to start counting my breaths before I can just focus on the breath entering and leaving my body. I have to control the thoughts flooding my mind before I can listen. Emptying my mind of thought, just focusing on breath, is the trigger to turning on bright lights. It is the first step towards self reflection. Try it! Whether indoors, outdoors or just sitting in the car, take a moment to first relax your body and then to clear your mind of its busy thoughts.
What you do a lot you get good at doing. It is easier for me to practice relaxing my body’s muscles and taking calm, even breaths when standing at the kitchen sink or looking out the window. I don’t have to wait until my emotions are choking me to use this skill. Actually, I want to become good at doing it before problems occur. By practicing the relaxing of my body and clearing my mind of anything except for my breathing, I discovered that it becomes easier to use this skill during times of stress and anxiety. After all, what you do a lot, you do become good at doing! Practice this skill at any time of the day for any amount of time. Putting the practice in strengthens your personal mind control and allows you to retrieve the skill when unhappiness pervades your life.
By Dr. Nancy Buck
My life was falling apart. My husband of 24 years left, saying he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married to me anymore. He needed time on his own to figures things out. My twin sons had left for college. The family dog ran away.
I was alone in our home, but there was no more “our” or “we.” Was there even a home anymore?
I didn’t know what to do. Crying didn’t help. Talking with my sisters and friends gave me only temporary relief.
Day after heart breaking day, the sadness, isolation, failure and oppression was unbearable.
My lifeline, it turned out, was my journal. Every morning I wrote my three morning pages. Every evening I listed five things I was grateful for. Most days my gratitudes consisted of:
1. I am breathing in
2. I am breathing out
3. I am breathing in
4. I am breathing out
5. I am breathing in and out
The lessons I learned during that time were many. The most important lesson was to keep breathing no matter what.
You never know what might happen next, what internal strength will be discovered, and what gifts will be revealed in the next moment.
And if you don’t keep breathing you never will know.
So keep breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out.