Several times throughout each day, empty your mind and switch off your thinking.
How? Didn’t Descartes say, “I think, therefore I am”? He did. But he wasn’t entirely correct. We are not merely our thoughts. We are much more than our thoughts. Thinking is a very useful tool but that’s the point: thinking is only a tool. In fact, thinking can sometimes get in the way of performance and learning. Sometimes it’s actually more useful to switch off our thinking because switching off our thinking allows our intuition and our subconscious resources to come to the fore.
When we’re not running an internal dialogue, we aren’t distracting ourselves from whatever it is we’re experiencing. We’re able to experience it fully. We’re not getting in our own way by saying to ourselves “This is really hard”. We’re just doing it or just experiencing it. Even if we’re running an internal commentary that’s positive or neutral, our attention still wavers between the experience itself and the opinions we’re forming about it. And that detracts from our performance and our appreciation of something. It’s like listening to a piece of music and allowing yourself to be totally swept up by it, and then someone comes into the room and starts a conversation. You feel like saying “Can you just keep quiet for a while, so I can appreciate the music fully?” Our internal dialogue can be just as distracting as any external conversation. In fact our internal conversations can be weapons of mass distraction – much like a buzzing mosquito.
So here are three ways to switch off your mind chatter and give your brain a refreshing boost. You can do each exercise for as long or as short a time as you like. Even a minute or two will start to bring benefits.
1. Begin by simply looking at the palm of your hand. Don’t comment, criticise, judge or mentally describe what you see. Don’t start to have a conversation with yourself about whether your lifeline is long enough. Simply look without thinking. If a thought crosses your mind, just let it pass without reacting, and bring your focus back to your hand. You can either focus on one point or you can scan your entire hand, whatever your preference.
2. Close your eyes and just listen. Become aware of the different sounds around you that you may not have been aware of until now. The sound of a bird, the wind, the traffic or the air conditioning. Or just become aware of the silence.
3. Keep your eyes closed and become aware of everything you’re touching: the feel of the clothes on your skin, the shoes on your feet, the glasses on your nose and the chair against your back.
Introduce one or all of these “Meditative Moments”into your day and watch your stress levels drop and your creativity spark up. It’s a marvellous paradox that while sitting and apparently shutting out the world, we’re actually cultivating our capacity to engage with the world in a far more effective way – we sharpen our thinking, we heighten our senses and we become more insightful and compassionate.