It was 2001 when I suddenly realized that others around me were believing their own thoughts. After having that revelatory insight, when I looked, I found several other people who had noticed this issue and who were speaking and writing about it.
These people included famous examples, like Richard Bach, Wayne Dyer, Richard Carlson, Gary Zukov, or Tony Robbins, as well as less well-known people like Sydney Banks, Joseph Bailey, and later scientists like neurologist Jill Bolte Taylor.
Each appealed to a different type of person, which was helpful. And all were, in very different ways, discussing how humans can use enervating thinking about our identity to steal our own sense of confidence and our connection to others and the world around us.
Despite there being many teachers who were all describing variations of the same realization, even as recently as 2010, it was still very difficult getting the medical, psychological and psychiatric professions to accept what all of us had realized. But from about 1995 onwards things did steadily improve, and by 2015 it felt like a shift was happening.
Realizing that more science was needed to prove the results all of us were seeing every day, people like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dr. Bob Petit, Dr. Roger Mills, and Dr. George Pransky and other people who were trained in mindfulness by many of the people noted above, began to help facilitate research into their results.
It will not surprise the people that work with me that, as those results are coming in, they are making the case clearly: mindfulness works. Quoting from the abstract of a recent scientific study in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry’s journal:
“Initiating and maintaining behavior change is key to the prevention and treatment of most preventable chronic medical and psychiatric illnesses. The cultivation of mindfulness, involving acceptance and nonjudgment of present-moment experience, often results in transformative health behavior change.”
The actual term ‘mindfulness’ was originally taken from Buddhism, and it represents a translation of the Indian, Pali term Sati. It’s defined as a state of being in which we are non-judgmental about the present moment. Of course, those judgments take place via our thinking, hence my work with people focuses on exposing the super subtle patterns in people’s thinking.
If we always thought in free and unique ways, we would be a different person every day. But because we follow patterns, we instead develop a personality. The reason our egos are hard on us is because they are constantly comparing our personality with whichever one would be most ideal to any given situation.
As an example, someone who casually plays guitar will tend to rate their playing against either the best person they know, or the best guitarists anywhere. Yet that casual player is not in some form of competition with those other players. It’s called ‘playing’ because it should be fun.
Instead of having that fun, people will enervate themselves with negative thinking about their playing to the point where they won’t even feel motivated to practice. Of course, that only reinforces the false narrative. If we employ Sati, or mindfulness, we simply play without the judgment.
Of course, these thoughts lead to emotions. So we not only get worse at guitar, but we start to hate ourselves for it. That only increases the production of neuro-chemistry and we quickly spiral downwards into darker and darker thoughts.
When we feel that descent, we must remember that we are the ones thinking the enervating thoughts. So we are the only people with the control to stop them. Or rather, to not keep re-starting them. As the Harvard study points, out:
“Self-regulation is the ability to adaptively regulate one’s attention, emotions, cognition, and behavior to respond effectively to internal as well as environmental demands. Self-regulation impairment is linked to poorer outcomes in school/academics and also to poorer physical and mental health.” Simply put, our thoughts shape our mental and our physical lives.
The ability to manage our emotional and psychological state not only provides the sort of mental health that makes life more rewarding, but those skills are also extremely valuable when working with others towards meaningful ends.
If we want to avoid our egos painful ruminations, and activate our stronger, wiser selves, then our internal processes must undergo change. I find that generally takes me 10 to 12 weeks to achieve that in most people, and we do it through simple, enjoyable conversations that helps expose this richer and more sensible reality.
Life is about 700,000 hours long. Taking 12 or 15 of those hours out to study ourselves, and how we work, is one of the most efficient ways we have to draw more value from the other 690,985 hours we’ll spend experiencing reality. There is more out there. But we must go get it.
As the Conclusion of the Harvard Psychiatry study, it points out that “A growing evidence base supports the benefits of mindfulness for behavior change. A mindful self-regulation model based on an integration of neuroscientific findings describes the complex and synergistic effects of attention/cognitive control, emotion regulation, and self-related processes, as well as motivation and learning mechanisms that may provide a unique pathway toward sustainable behavior change.”
If you want to learn to manage change, and to regulate your emotions and sharpen your focus, then consider booking the time to make those changes. Because once they’re made, they’re not superficial changes. You will be a different person living in a different reality.
Our egos travel with us everywhere. So making friends with ours is key to a rewarding life. Learning proper mindfulness permanently changes who we are, and what behaviours we engage in. We go from someone we often don’t like, to someone we are very happy with. And that is fantastically better than what far too many people do, which is spend far too much time, hating themselves.
If you want change, call or write, and let’s talk. There’s nothing I love better than watching someone throw out all of their weaknesses in favour of gathering up their strengths. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.