Mind Expansion

12 Aug

In reviewing some of the sessions I’d had with my mental edge clients this week, I noticed a common thread among them. I’ve seen a strong focus on magical thinking– what “might” happen– and these thoughts leading straight to negative assumptions and then fear, anxiety, and discomfort.  I’ve heard a lot of categorizing and labeling too. The labels are rarely kind or inspiring, and more often take the shape of ugly, fat, guilty, or weak.  And last but certainly not least I’ve seen a pattern of creating a rushed, frantic pace to get things done on a to-do list of epic proportions, leading yet again, to feeling overwhelmed and incompetent.

Okay, I understand the go-go-go mentality. I’m Type A and fill up all of my time. There, I labeled myself. But allow me to define it: 1. An individual with a high level of responsibility; 2. One who takes great pride in accomplishing her work with precision and organization; 3. One who engages in meaningful activities that create opportunities for learning, growth, and advancement in her personal and professional endeavors. Some of you may read this and think “workaholic! She’s just justifying her behaviors!” Perhaps, but here’s the difference.

I see quite a few people most days, so I’m often asked how I’m doing. My answer is usually “Great! Very busy!” And then what has become the inevitable question follows. It pours from people’s mouths predictably, like the ticking of a clock– “Do you ever take time for yourself?”

How do I answer this question? No one is forcing me to go back to school to get my PhD. I chose this activity and so it is for myself. No one demands that I work 12 hours a day. I could just as easily work from home if I chose to. I enjoy being there. So justification? I don’t think so.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this unless I’m operating day-to-day questioning “when am I going to catch a break?” or not sleeping due to significant anxiety or am unable to cultivate meaningful relationships or be with the people I love because of what I perceive I MUST do rather than recognizing what it is I’m choosing to do.

The key word here is “perceive.”  If ever there was a loaded word- this is it.  Perceptions are chock full with values, beliefs, meaning, personal scripts, motivations, and often distortions.  Our perceptions are our reality though, as distorted as they might be! So if we’re thinking “I’m never going to get out from under this huge pile of work,” your reality is that you’re drowning.

In my previous blog I addressed the concept of mindfulness. Inherent in this concept is mind expansion–to see things as they are and to let go of judgments (i.e. the load that perceptions carry). Mindfulness conveys acceptance, awareness, and attunement to “being”.  Rather than honing in on one unrealistic, non evidence-based thought, mindfulness means allowing everything into our mind, remembering that no thought needs to carry more weight than another. We let them come in and we let them go out.

This is what I am working to teach, and I practice it myself. It is Friday night at 8:20pm. I’m on my computer happily writing a blog about a topic I’m passionate about. I ate dinner by myself, not  leaving the office until 6:30pm. Will I label myself overworked and complain about not enough time in the day and not being able to get everything done? I could.  And that thought might creep in, but it certainly isn’t going to hang around. I’m not latching onto it. I’m expanding my mind. I’m making a choice. I’m choosing to be aware and know that my mind can run away with me if I let it. I’m thinking that I left at 6:30 from work and I’m writing a blog. That’s it!

I’m committed to mind expansion and seeing things as they are. Are you?

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