Do you ever wake up in the morning to your alarm blaring? You get an initial fright, press snooze, drift in and out of sleep with thoughts of your to-do list for the day coming at you like trucks on a busy highway? Or are you awake 15 minutes before your alarm in anticipation of the day ahead and thinking back to those same ominous trucks from the day before that you didn’t manage to clear from you ‘brain highway’?
Brain highway. That’s what I like to call our conscious/ unconscious thought process. The hundreds, if not thousands of thoughts that pass through our heads everyday. Research shows that we actually have 2500-3300 thoughts every hour! Most of these thoughts pass through fleetingly and move on into the background. But some tend to stick around for a bit running tight circles in our head with their foot on the accelerator and blaring their horn, like a big scary truck! Just picture that. A big scary truck doing tight circles around you while blaring its horn at you! You can do nothing but notice it. In fact you are more than noticing it at this stage, the truck is huge in your field of vision and blocks everything else out. All you can do is concentrate on this one seemingly horrible, scary thing in front of you! Everything else that you were doing a few seconds ago is completely blocked out and your body starts getting into fight or flight mode. Your stress hormone cortisol starts to rise. You start to sweat and get anxious.
What if I told you that you could take control of this situation. You could get that nasty truck back on the highway with the other trucks and cars and off into the distance. As a physiotherapist I teach people every day how to perform exercises to strengthen a muscle or tendon in their body. They go away, do the exercise for a specific amount per day and week then come back with less pain and more strength. We can apply the same model to our brain and thoughts. The brain is the muscle and the stressful thoughts being the injury or niggle.
I was going through a particularly stressful time with my business at the same time. Thoughts were rife, my highway was the size of a Los Angeles freeway. The five-lane variety! Because my mind was so busy with trying to wear the many hats of a business owner working on and in my own business, I couldn’t decipher, allocate and file each task in its order of importance. I would get anxious, worried, angry, frustrated, down and tired trying to do it all!
This thought process and a little nudging from my partner got me started on a little app called Headspace. I made a conscious decision to take control of my thoughts, to give my head a little… space! I’m great at getting to sleep at night. I’m asleep within about 10 breaths of the light going out. It’s 4.30/5am that my mind decides to wake up with a jolt. Thoughts, concerns, stories left over from the day before. Scenarios played out in my head, which have not even happened yet. Numbers, figures, reports, forecasts… you get the drift. So this was my plan. I would start meditating 5 minutes after my alarm went off every morning. Just 10 minutes of headspace. I started with the intro pack, a nice way to dip my toes into the world of meditation.
Two sessions in and no epiphany, no higher level of consciousness. I thought, this meditation thing doesn’t work, it’s a hoax! But a little voice inside me kept saying, just another session, keep it up. So I did. Five sessions in and I was still doubting. But on returning from work one day after maybe my tenth session my partner asked me how my day was? A very normal question which a few weeks previously would have got my heckles up, got me all frustrated with a short answer in tow. Not this time though. ‘It was good thanks, it was very productive, clear and I had lots of fun’ was my reply! Such a contrast from my previous mindset. Life was good again even though I was still dealing with the afore-mentioned stressor. I had clarity of thought and was less distracted, which led me to be much more productive in my day.
A few months later with the acute stress over I managed to meditate 100 days in a row. Pretty awesome for a guy who had no idea what meditation meant a few months prior.
Moral of the story: “Meditation” the art of calming and focusing the mind, give it a go! What’s the worst that could happen?