When we’re opening up to being more of who we are, the murky stuff rises up. It’s usually old tapes about our not-enoughness. I call them mental 8 tracks (remember 8 tracks?), to signify how outdated these tapes really are.
I’m working on a ‘hell yeah’ project that requires my full commitment not only to the project, but also to managing my fear. The bigger the project, the bigger the gremlins.
Every day I’m bumping up against what I believe about myself. This still happens though I’ve tried every panacea – yoga, mindfulness practice, meditation, coaching, 5Rhythms dancing – nothing takes away the old tapes and the inner critic. Not fully (and that isn’t really the point).
So how do we upgrade our 8 tracks into a high fidelity mental audio system?
Don’t believe everything you think. When I stopped believing my thoughts, everything started to shift. During a meditation class, the session leader likened our thoughts to a rainbow. Both are there, yes, but they aren’t really real.
The mind is constantly generating thoughts, ideas and kooky random commentary – that’s its job. But we don’t need to get hooked by every fickle thought. We can simply notice – oh look, a thought about feeling inadequate – and then return (unhooked) to our task.
I have a particular 8 track about perfection. When I notice the sensation of angst rising, and the old tape starting to play, I reroute to my new high fidelity mental audio system: ‘Oh, you again,’ referring to my outdated 8 track. On cue, the perfectionist tape starts fading out.
The practice of questioning our thoughts can help us to distinguish facts from fears. It’s a total drama deflator.
Welcome the sucky stuff: When we imagine a difficult scenario, something challenging or painful, the brain treats the thought as a real enemy. This fires up the Amygdala, the body’s fight or flight control center.
Your brain is getting its dukes up.
By simply acknowledging a bad feeling or painful memory, we pull the plug on the downward spiral.
My mindfulness teachers, Peter & Julie Johnson, introduced me to ‘The Guest House,’ by Rumi. These two stanzas are pure gold:
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Practice being with your discomfort. Sit with it, without judging it or trying to push it away. Befriend it. How is it hanging with discomfort?
Sitting with the yucky stuff can be far less exhausting, terrifying and debilitating than a life on the run, avoiding your mental thugs.
Lean into your greatness: Have you noticed that your 8 tracks tend not to present you at your best? My most-played mental tracks are about feeling frazzled or afraid, with elaborate riffs on both themes. Something tells me I’m not alone.
What about switching to a new, updated audio system, one that gives airtime to a different mental playlist. This new system you’re putting in place is full of rhythms that celebrate your magnificence. And the coolest thing? You are the DJ.
One of my favourite artists, Outi Harma, is releasing a deck of Lost Commandments Cards. I bought the deck because of this one:
‘Don’t do anything half-assed. Life is short. Why spend it doggie paddling in the shallow end of the pool? Fourteen billion years of evolution led to you. You are epic. Act like it.’
Thank you Outi.
You heard the lady: Honour your awesome. Chuck out your 8 tracks…life’s moved on.
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