Are your thoughts making life difficult?

Jan 07, 2020

I watched the SAS training thing on TV the other night - the one where Ant Middleton and his team of ex Special Forces supermen take a group of 'normal' (but abnormally fit) people through a shortened version of the SAS selection program.

From the outset there was an obvious front runner - a big, strong, super-fit bloke with a mindset of steel; clearly very, very determined. In the brief interviews they have with the contestants he came across as the man to beat.

Then, on day 2, he was taken for 'interrogation' and Mr Middleton asked him a few  questions that  obviously touched a nerve or two. Things like "so tell me a bit more about that really painful time in your life" and "what else are you running away from?"

Next thing... he totally crumbled. He was like a different person. He lost some of his equipment, failed to complete one of the tasks and dropped to the back of the pack.

He went from believing he was the #1 candidate to believing he was a total failure. And after just a few hours of self-critical thoughts going round his head... he asked to voluntarily withdraw from the program!

It amazes me how our thoughts (and primarily the thoughts we have about ourselves) literally dictate our experience of life.

From the outside anyone would see this guy as having all the attributes of a champion but in his own head, as soon as his inner demons had been exposed, he was a total failure.

Wow. His whole world view, his self image and his performance was radically distorted just by thinking differently.

He became slow, weak, forgetful and confused... all as a result of thinking differently.

He went from being confident, happy and strong to miserable and fearful... as a result of thinking differently.

Can you relate to this?

I know I can.

Failures, embarrassments, disappointments, lost opportunities... I can attribute a whole heap of these to poor thinking.

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“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell or a Hell of Heaven.”
John Milton
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Thankfully there's a proven technique for breaking free from negative thinking. Well, actually there are two as far as I know....

One is the Gung Ho method. The 'fake it 'til you make it', 'Rah Rah' method yelled by  motivational speakers, management gurus and corporate trainers. This is where you dig deep and muster all the strength you can to control your thinking.

Phew. It's hard work that one. You've probably tried it - I suppose we all have to some extent. And keeping it up is very difficult.

Another (much easier, thankfully) method is the total opposite to this. It doesn't involve trying to override your limited thinking or lack of self-belief.

With this method you don’t need to try and shut out or change thoughts you don't agree with; instead you just... allow them to be there.

And weirdly this counter-intuitive approach can bring about magical results.

It takes a little patience but gradually, that busy stream of nagging doubts, fears and other thoughts you’d rather not face, starts to subside and your mind reverts to its natural, calm, quiet state.

Then, in this calm-er state you start to become aware of just how much control your thoughts have over your life - they literally dictate the way you feel and the way you act. (If you let them).

With this awareness, this realisation that your thoughts are, well, just thoughts, you are able to detach from them somewhat so that you are no longer at their mercy.  You break free from the 'auto-pilot' state of mind in which we unconsciously react to feelings, emotions and outside events. This  is where the magic happens. A whole new world of possibilities opens up simply because you're now AWARE of them.

The method is simple. Very simple. All it takes is a little time each day to practice.

Here's a very basic explanation to get you started:

You just need a quiet place to sit, 10 to 15 minutes of spare time and a commitment to stick with it when you get bored, frustrated and uncomfortable. Oh, sorry, I should have said... it's a really simple practice; but it's not necessarily easy;  those negative thoughts are almost certainly going to come up. I suppose that's why many people give up before they reap the rewards. ;-) 

OK, so here's what you do...

Ready?

Step one: Breathe in and out.
Step two: Keep your attention on the sensation in your body as you breathe in and out.
Step three: Any time your mind wanders, (and gets caught up with those thoughts of boredom, frustration and discomfort), simply redirect it back to the sensation of breathing.
Step four: Repeat steps 1 - 3 for 10-15 minutes.

OK, so there's a little bit more to it than that but believe me, that is the essence of the method right there. It's sticking with it and doing a little each day which makes all the difference. If you'd like some additional guidance to learn this method in more detail, be sure to lookout for notifications about our next online Quiet Mind course. In the full course we explain how to apply the method to different areas of your life and how to develop your awareness so that it can really serve you. We'll also show you how to deal with those feelings of boredom, frustration and discomfort! The next course will be starting at the end of September and details will be on our website very soon.   

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