Change Your Life, Change the World
When I awoke the other morning, still half in a dream state, I had a really cool moment where I was observing what it felt like to dream versus to actually think. The dreamy state was a lot lighter, as if images were floating somewhere up above my brain. The thought state was a lot more effort, and I could feel the sensation of the areas behind my left and right temples cranking up ready for another day of mental activity.
Once underway, we often don’t realise the sheer effort on our part to keep up all that activity, nor the benefits of taking time out from it. I remember my daughter’s kindergarten teacher commenting a couple of years ago on how important it was for our kids to have regular times in the day where they could just have downtime to unpack new experiences, things as simple as processing the new crayons they had used, or a new story they had heard.
I watched my 7-year-old last weekend as we spent time away with friends, she was in her element playing with the gang but she was not taking any downtime; something I also let slip because of the social nature of the trip. By day two, her lack of tolerance was obvious, she was snappy with her sister and her ears were closed to any requests or questions. By the time we set off for home she was pretty frazzled and had a total melt down over something she’d normally take in her stride.
It’s often easy for adults to look at kids in that state and label them simply as ‘tired’, implying more sleep is needed. While sleep is beneficial for bursting the bubble of any negative momentum going on and resetting our energy levels, it’s not the only thing we need. We need regular, conscious, time to unwind mentally.
Later that same day, once home, I was reading a story before bedtime for the kids and my daughter was really obviously not following the storyline as she does usually; she kept switching into a dream state, which I commented on to help her realise the effects of the over-stimulation. “But I like daydreaming mum” she said and I thought there was a lesson in that for all of us.
While her body was trying to regain its balance through a meltdown, closed ears and day dreams, as we grow we tend to get on with things and ‘push through’. This usually results in headaches, regular colds, coughs, flu, earaches and so on as we ignore what our body is trying to tell us. Then, as we move through life, we can manifest far more serious illnesses as our body keeps trying to bring us back to balance.
Unlike children, we generally have less new experiences that we have to process in our daily lives, instead we tend to expend most of our mental activity regurgitating the past in some way or worrying about the future. We put a lot of effort into thinking about things that are not just unnecessary, but entirely unhelpful to our quality of life.
I thought about the many hours I have spent in meetings, and how disengaged most of the attendees were most of the time. Personally speaking, I know that if I had just used that time to actually daydream about the kind of life I wanted to lead and the kind of world I wanted to live in, I could have saved myself a lot of angst.
Instead I’d often be stewing on things I had seen or heard that I didn’t like, or trying to figure out how on earth to get to better end solutions, or wishing I could use the time more productively on the list of 500 other things that needed to get done that day, or sometimes I was just simply sitting in despair at the time in my life that was wasting away having to endure those largely useless gatherings.
Rarely was I ‘in the game’. And having attended and hosted many of those useless gatherings over many years in many different settings and companies, I know how rare it was for any of my colleagues to really be in the game either. The one exception was usually ‘away days’ or ‘offsites’, where we kicked into a more open and creative gear.
My partner, on the other hand, has never worked in an office environment; instead he works with his hands. He has the radio on for company a lot of the time, and commented recently about becoming aware of when his mind was wandering while he was working. He found himself ruminating on a dynamic with someone in his life that really bugs him, yet he can’t change it except in his own attitude. Acutely aware of that, he was also wondering why he was letting it take up so much space in his brain, instead of dwelling on the many nicer aspects of his life.
There are so many scenarios that each of us replay in our heads each day, sometimes the characters in our stories change, but often not until we have well and truly chewed them up and spat them out of our daily activity over long periods of time. We tell ourselves we are well rid of that character, then another takes their place in a similar story – unless we wake up to these thought patterns.
This human condition of useless and unhelpful mental activity seems endemic. It’s perpetuated by ‘being busy’. Taking regular time throughout the day to just contemplate, drift and daydream feels impossible and unproductive to many, yet it’s the opposite.
I bumped into another school mum the other day as I was leaving the beach, where I like to go for regular walks, to go and pick up the kids. She was just getting in her car and had clearly been for a swim in the ocean. She looked at me guiltily and started explaining why she was at the beach, and how she had made it productive because she had groceries to do.
I smiled and shrugged “I just like the beach” I said “I come here most days”.
But I get where she is coming from, our defensive standpoint around productivity is a result of our environment. We haven’t been taught to value ourselves enough to take time out of our regular physical and mental activity and actually be present in the moment long enough to see the world through fresh eyes.
When you do that regularly enough, you can more clearly see your own self defeating thought patterns and how they have and are showing up in your life. For me, it hasn’t meant I am completely rid of these old habits, but I am more aware of them and many have lost momentum as I have switched focus.
I now also see the value in questioning everything that is ‘common opinion’ or ‘the way we do things’. With my head out of the sand of my own little life more often, I have started to think through many of the issues we face as a society.
I look at our way of living and question all aspects with an interest now that I never had time to indulge in before (because I was so caught up in useless and self-defeating thoughts). I look at our ‘systems’ of living and wonder at how we ever came to give away so much of our own power on such a mass scale, certainly over the last 5 millennia; the power to think, to be well, to learn, to build a home, to barter and to govern our own lives.
We are at a place of crazy when it’s normal to think in terms of another ‘owning’ land or anything from the natural world, or to think it’s normal to pump ourselves and our environment with chemicals when we are at dis-ease, or to think that we arrive into this world in complete ignorance of all that has gone before, or to think we are each only our own body and disconnected from everything else.
Rather than let your mental activity take on a life of its own, as most do, become aware of what is going on in there in the moment and try to start directing your thoughts towards something that makes you feel better than worse. It helps hugely if you can mediate regularly, as it makes the practice of becoming aware of your thoughts in any given moment very easy.
Taking a regular break from your mental activity will not only release you from the insanity of your own life and give you a fresh perspective, gradually leading to more quality of life and more moments of happy, it will help us all to evolve this world and realise our best potential.
I’d love for you to like, comment on, or share these thoughts with others if they inspire, or contact me directly at email@example.com, I’m always happy to help if I can. To be the first to receive these posts, you can also subscribe to my newsletter and, as a special thank you, you will receive the link to my video 3 Steps to Becoming You.
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