Is your mind running your life without your input? Mine has been for at least twenty years!
Last summer in Madison, Michael and Illana ran Breathe for Change workshops every day focused on a segment of their original program. Sometimes it felt hokey to me, for sure, but I committed on the front end to just go along and see what happens. Those of you who know me know how much of a struggle that was sometimes, and I had to wrangle my mind and muscles to submit. More than once. Every day. For 16 days. Straight. And it was an incredibly powerful skill to build.
One day we were discussing intention setting, how our mind is what propels us in life, and getting those two things into sync. Sounds good, right?
Well, then they said we were going to do a little activity. They asked us all to raise our hands. We did. Then they explained we would all say out loud, “It will feel good when I raise my hand,” before raising our hands. This is definitely one of those times my brain was a running things because I thought, “Seriously? You think it’s going to make a difference if I say something out loud before raising my hand?”
I reigned my mind in — it felt like teaching the first day of kindergarten, you know like herding cats — and did it. I was strangely surprised that it did feel different the second time. Always a skeptic, I surmised it might’ve been my internal dialogue that made the difference. And, I committed to trying it outside of the workshop. Expecting to prove them wrong.
When I found myself not wanting to do something, I’d think out loud, “This is going to feel good.” And, to my surprise, it worked. Okay, not like total magic where I now love cleaning my kitchen, but it does work to keep my focus more positive.
Later I realized I’ve been using this strategy for years in my classroom. You know that kid that is having a hard time staying focused and on task while you’re teaching and keeps interrupting everybody else? I often pull that kid aside before intense learning activities and ask her what her goal is for the lesson. I’ve used non-verbal cues for kids that we are striving for greatness so that even in the hallways when students make bad choices I can remind them of their goals without embarrassment or singling them out for misbehavior. (People outside of our class have thought I was crazy for randomly extending my hand from below the waist into the air with extended fingers with mu) It has worked for years with students, how did I miss that it would work for me, too!
In the morning when I first wake up, before getting out of bed, I go through a brief time of meditation. Purposely not picking up my phone. Not listening to music. Lying in the silence mindful of the feel of the sheets on my skin, breathing deeply and consciously expelling the stagnant energy from sleep while visualizing breathing in vitality and light. I spend this time expressing gratitude, and I set an intention for the day. As I slowly, lazily open my eyes observing the way the light sneaks in around the edge of the curtain and hearing the dogs waking up, I feel good about starting my day.
Since that training, I’ve paid more attention to intention setting. And, it has popped up in so many of the things I’m reading and listening to.