Still Your Mind

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We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

-Buddha

 

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Well, I propose an amendment:

“If you can’t think something nice, don’t think anything at all.”

That’s right. If you find your mind spiralling into negativity; if your thoughts evoke feelings of fear, guilt, or envy; if you are suddenly bombarded by a parade of judgments…

Still your mind. Stop thinking. It’s that simple.

Simple, but not easy.

How can you stop your mind from thinking? It’s normal. It’s natural. We all do it, right?

It is normal that your mind projects a constant stream of thought. That’s what minds do. Sometimes your mind creates problems that don’t even exist. These imaginary problems cause stress, which can impact your physical health. They cause dis-ease. A restless mind makes a restless life.

But what if you are not your mind?

What if you could stop your mind and instantly change your life?

Think about a time you have been trying to focus on an important work project. (Like right now, for me.) After a few minutes you might notice that your mind has been wandering. Instead of thinking about work, you might have been thinking about… well, let’s pick something completely random – let’s say you’ve been thinking about raiding that stash of coconut, caramel chocolate in the pantry.

Who is the person witnessing your thoughts? Is that you? Or is the chocolate-obsessed thinker you?

In his book Practicing the Power of Now, bestselling author and spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, writes,

“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.”

Tolle explains that the one witnessing your thoughts, in a non-judgmental way, is your Higher Self, a higher level of consciousness. As you access your Higher Self, your thoughts recede. Only stillness remains. And you begin to feel a deep sense of peace.

So how can you access this Higher Self?

All the methods below are simple forms of meditation that will help you tap into a higher level of consciousness. The more you practice them, the more peace you will experience in your life.

  1. Watch the thinker. Tolle suggests that you become the watcher of your thoughts. Don’t judge them. Don’t reject them. Just become aware of them. Soon you will notice something interesting: Almost all your unsettling thoughts are replays of painful moments from the past or projections of problems into the future. As you begin to watch the thinker, your thoughts fade and disappear. By watching them you dissolve them. Your mind becomes clear.
  2. Live in the present. The present moment is a portal to your Higher Self. When your mind relives the past or projects into the future, it can make you feel anxious. To bring your thoughts into the present, focus deeply on what you are doing, right now. Become aware of the subtle sensations of this action. If you are touching something, feel the texture of the object. If you are looking at something, imagine you are seeing it for the first time. Being present creates mental clarity and opens you up to the possibilities of the most precious moment of all, the only moment that ever truly exists: Now. The present is just that: a gift. Accept it with gratitude.
  3. Breathe. Inhale deeply and imagine the breath is a beam of light. Feel your chest expand. Imagine the light moving through every cell of your body. Then as you exhale, imagine the breath shining out into the world. Conscious breathing activates your Higher Self by bringing your thoughts into the present. Your mind becomes still. You feel calm and alert.

When I lived on the Tiny Island (see my About page), I would often stroll along the windswept Atlantic beach in the late afternoon light. I began to think of the ocean as my busy mind. The churning waves were like thoughts crashing across my consciousness, and the sand was like my body, sculpted by these thoughts.

Then I cut inland and strolled a half mile to the bay on the lee side of the island. Here the sea was sparkling and smooth, like a mirror. I flicked a shell into the water and watched the ripples expand and shimmer in the golden light. I began to think of the glassy bay as my Higher Self. Calm and gentle. Reflecting peace. Radiating like the ripples from the shell.

When you stop your mind and summon your Higher Self, the light within you burns brighter and shines out into the world. You feel a deep sense of peace and joy. You feel light and free.

Clear your mind so you can hear your heart. Follow your heart and you will live in love and light.

Karen

Recommended Reading:

Eckhart Tolle

How to Stop Thinking

The Art of Thinking – Or Not

Smile More

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“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Did you know most people you meet sum you up in three seconds? Three seconds for a first impression! That’s all it takes. Maybe less.

So what can you do in three seconds to help people see you as the limitless, Divine soul you really are?

You can smile.

Power of a Smile

When we first moved to the Tiny Island (see my About page) I realized the true power of a smile. Zooming around in our golf cart, we always made a point to smile and wave at everyone we passed. It was easy. During those first few weeks we were so besotted with our new island home that our faces were fixed in euphoric perma-smiles.

But even when our initial bliss faded a little, we still made an effort to smile and wave at everyone, even if they didn’t return the gesture – especially if they didn’t return the gesture. I told myself that even if someone scowled back at me, perhaps I helped him or her to smile on the inside.

All that smiling paid off. Within days, we earned the label “friendly”. The locals spread the word, and before we knew it, people would smile at us as we approached, even if they hadn’t met us yet. They went out of their way to help us. Life seemed to be on our side.

The same principle applies in the Outside World. Sometimes you may never see the person you smile at again. But that’s OK. You’ve sent a ripple of joy out into the world. And just like the ripple in a pond, it will grow exponentially.

If smiling doesn’t come easy for you, if you’re shy and find it difficult to smile at a stranger, you are not alone.

Here are some Tips to Help you Smile:

  • Be grateful: In every moment focus on something you can be grateful for. It might be as simple as the fragrance of jasmine on a warm spring day, a butterfly floating by, or a warm coat on a winter’s day. Gratitude makes you smile.
  • Think happy thoughts: It’s impossible not to smile when you’re thinking about something happy like a child’s giggle, a friend’s joke, or your favorite food.
  • Look for the light in everyone: Everyone has a light flickering deep within, waiting to burn brighter. Make it a challenge to ignite it. Sometimes a smile is all it takes to tweak the energy exchange between two people.
  • Quit judging others: You don’t know what the person you just met is going through in their lives. People choose their own path of learning, and the most powerful and liberating thing you can do is respect that path. Always give others the benefit of the doubt.

A smile says, “I come in peace and love.” You may smile at someone and forget, but that simple smile could make someone’s day. It could even save a life.

Smiling is contagious. Not only does it make the recipients happy, and all the people they smile at happy, it also makes you happy.

Smiling is good for your health. It lowers your heart rate and boosts your immune system. It breaks the ice of stress.

Smile and watch the world yield to you. Light up a stranger’s face.

Ignite joy.

Karen

Strip Away Stuff

Enough is a feast.

Buddhist Proverb

Ever thought you need more storage space or a bigger house so you can organize all your stuff?

You are not alone. But I learned through experience that buying more space is not the answer.

It all started one rainy weekend at home. My husband decided to risk his life and venture into the dark depths of our junk-crammed storage closet looking for a forgotten tax file. Stretching up high to an overloaded shelf he pulled on a box.

Thwack!

A plastic singing bass slapped him in the face.

“We need more storage space! We need more shelves!” he screamed.

Soon we had to sell that house, and our real estate agent spoke those dreaded four words, “You need to…” Oh no. Wait for it. “You need to… declutter.

Aaaargh! So much stuff. So little time.

Digging through all our possessions, I was shocked at how much junk we collected over the years. Expensive junk. What was I thinking? I hardly even used this stuff. Then it hit me like a runaway U-Haul.

We don’t need more storage. We need less stuff.

So we had a garage sale. We sold a jumble of ugly, old furniture teetering in the garden shed. Et voila! We reclaimed an entire outdoor room of storage space. We recycled magazines, and finally I could dust under the coffee table. We gave away clothes. We donated books.

Giving felt great. It created space. And whenever I wondered who would most need the things we wanted to give away, the perfect person would magically show up.

Like my neighbor, Bettina.

A year earlier she lost her only child to a brain tumour; her precious, luminous ten year-old daughter. After a year of unimaginable grief, I recently heard that Bettina and her husband were in the process of adopting twin toddler daughters. Maybe they need some toys, I thought, as I tripped over a Fisher Price farmyard pig. I called her over.

Bettina took one look at the sea of puzzles, princess toys, ponies, and girly paraphernalia. “Thank you so much,” she sobbed. And she pulled me into a bear hug.

I was shocked. I felt so unworthy. To me this was stuff the kids no longer cared about. Closet cloggers. To Bettina it was hope; hope of a home filled once more with the laughter of a child. Hope that grief would loosen its grip. Hope of happiness.

I realized that for Bettina, accepting the toys was an act of great courage. It was her way of opening up her heart. Daring to love again. Embracing vulnerability.

“Thank you,” she said again, and her gratitude made me glow.

A simple act. A powerful reaction.

As we move through life, stuff can weigh us down. Assets can become liabilities: Extra stuff to stress about. Extra stuff to store.

Giving can free us. And it reminds us of who we really are.

We are not our possessions. We are not a big house with a granite kitchen, a media room, and a double-car garage. We are not a new car with leather seats and a wood dash. And no, we are not a plastic, singing bass. (Thank goodness).

We are not stuff.

We are love and light and joy.

Stripping away our stuff felt so good that we decided to keep going. We sold more stuff. We packed 8 bags and our fishing rods, and we moved to a tiny tropical island with our two kids and our geriatric cat.

Join us on our adventure as I share the pearls of wisdom I found along the way. I hope I can light a little spark in you and help you find your path to peace and joy.

Live light and live happy,

Karen