How to think correctly to reprogram your mind, change your attitude on a difficult subject, decide how you will feel about an anxiety-causing situation, and create a response that will be in your highest interest? Again, the short answer is to meditate, however, that’s not easy for most people. So, I realized that often meditation is not necessary at all, and that we all get into a meditative state throughout the day, but are not aware of it. At those times, you can think with intention.
Meditative states happen naturally when you are driving on the highway, you reach your destination and wonder, How did I get here? I don’t remember this 2-hour drive. Your brain was functioning, after all, you reached your destination without crashing into anything. Yet, here you are, a 100 miles away, with no inkling about all the turns you took to get there. You were meditating. Have you ever picked up a paintbrush, and started painting, not with need to create something specific, but just allowed the paint to flow out of you and onto the canvas? You were meditating. Have you ever journaled in a relaxed manner, and allowed you ideas to just flow out of you? You were meditating, or in a state very close to it.
So. when I can’t meditate (when I have anxiety or panic attacks), my favorite way to correct my unreasonable panic-stricken, fear-mongering mind, is to start to write. I want to think with intention, but none of us can do that when our minds are racing a 100 miles an hour. I want to think only thoughts that will benefit me, but that only lasts 20 seconds, before my monkey mind takes over and starts repeating fear.
The pen and the words I write intentionally on paper, force my mind to flow along with it. Your mind can’t argue with what you are intensely focused on, it can’t argue with that pen writing what you intend. It can only follow the words on paper. While you want your mind to reach that meditative state and flow in the right direction on it’s own, you are going to pull it in the correct direction physically. Yes, your pen and your hand will pull your mind into the words it sees on paper. And eventually, as you stick to your intent: how you will feel, how you will accept, how you will process an uncomfortable emotion, pay attention to your body’s energy. It begins to relax when you decide that you will feel good, feel powerful, feel excellent when that big moment comes.
I have used this technique many times, and have always been able to reprogram my automatic responses with the ones I have practiced with just a pen and paper. I write for hours, and it is relaxing and enjoyable. Sometimes, I have a glass of wine. But always, I am able to decide how I will feel and act in the future when some unwelcome thing that is currently causing me anxiety happens.
What is anxiety? It is an irrational fear of something that has not happened. I am basically fearing the future, not living in the now. Why fear something that hasn’t happened? If you have anxiety, you know that sometimes the brain is triggered by the most irrational subjects. I have been triggered by dialing a phone number, reading an email, and every single year I have a major meltdown as tax time approaches. Even when I know I don’t own any money, that due date triggers me into an emotional tailspin.
I am currently anticipating an uncomfortable situation. There is plenty of evidence around me that shows it will happen soon. I fear the consequences, the hassle, the enormity, the frustration of dealing with it, the months it will take to settle, even the panic that I haven’t started to feel yet- I know I will panic in the future so I am panicking now, I know I will be frustrated by this process, so I am frustrated now. Does that make sense? Not at all. But that is my brain, and that is why I train it so much.
So, I am thinking with intention. I can’t bear to think about the implications of this upcoming situation, but I can ignore that for a minute and ponder how would a more powerful woman feel? What would a rational, intelligent, action-oriented woman do and how would she feel as she is doing it? A lot of women are much more assertive and intentional and goal oriented than I am, how would she feels as she is meeting her goals, and accomplishing these tasks one by one? Meditation is just reaching for that feeling, staying in that feeling, and then enjoying that feeling as long as possible. The feeling of power, ease, excitement, accomplishment, feeling satisfied, even empowered knowing you are acting in your best interest. But, writing in my journal can get me into that exact same place. When my brain resists, my hand and pen force it into that magic place where that difficult task is easily accomplished. Thinking with intention is exactly that. Deciding rationally how you will feel, and practicing that feeling until it becomes an automatic response.
When I was 11, I came to America barely speaking any English. My school required all students to be proficient at public speaking, and we trained every year in speaking in front of an auditorium, then debate, and oratory contests. How do you do that when you can barely form a sentence in English? Imagining what this would feel like, literally made me shake in fear and cry every night. I didn’t want to go to school, and my dad tormented me even more “No daughter of mine will shake in fear on stage”. But just the thought of it made me piss my pants. I knew I couldn’t learn English in time to feel confident about speaking in front of the whole school. Instead I floated off into space and imagined what it would be like to speak like the most confident public speaker in class. Immediately I started to feel ease, power, this is fun, I can actually look people in the eye as I am relaxed behind the podium. Then I upped my projection and now I was a news anchor, speaking confidently, intelligently, staring straight into the camera like I know what I’m talking about. I noticed that the fear in my chest was replaced by excitement as I kept imagining I am her. I practiced with intention, how I would feel if I was the best speaker in the school.
Decades later, I think I am an excellent public speaker. At work, speaking in front of a conference room full of people who are much smarter than me, feels empowering. In fact, in my job, men who are more confident and more powerful in the office, have even asked me to deliver their presentations for them. I have convinced myself that I am the best, most confident, most powerful speaker on the planet. I sell out stadiums!
The reality is that it took many years for my English to become fluent, yet I succeed in speaking publicly when I practiced the feeling of confidence.
Have you got something scary coming up? Don’t let your brain tell you how difficult, impossible, unpleasant this battle is going to be for you, and certainly, don’t let it tell you about the agony you will feel when you lose. That’s just your brain talking. Instead,, use your mind. Your physical brain and your energetic mind are two separate entities. When one says no, use the other to practice the feeling of yes.
This is what I call intentional thinking. Decide how you will feel, practice the feeling of doing the right thing, making excellent decisions, acting in your best interest. You know how awesomely empowered you will feel when you act with ease, and certainty. You know how you feel when a job is well done. You know how excited you feel when everybody thinks you gave an excellent performance. You know how it feels to hear applause, great job, you did it! That feeling that you feel right now, IS that energy you want to practice in your body. That is what spiritual people refer to as transmutation- changing an energy from fear to ecstasy. That is alchemy, turning a base metal into gold. This is how you change your reality, and this is how you get a desired outcome every time.
This is an amazing post. So powerful! Thank you so much for writing.