Do you ever feel as though you’re on a treadmill that’s programmed by a higher power to incline and decline, and all you’re required to do is go with the flow? You struggle on the inclines but enjoy the easier pace of the declines and give thanks for the fact that it’s not all uphill.
What if I were to tell you that the treadmill is actually a figment of your imagination that you have allowed to become your reality? Would you be willing to consider that?
Exploring the mind
As many of you will know by now, I have been exploring, in earnest, ways in which to live a better life since early last year. The first step I took was to stop drinking. This came with a price. While it brought a new clarity to my thinking, it also shone a blinding light on the failings of my thinking mind. I started to see how messed up my thoughts had been and how they had actually taken me prisoner. I remember going to my GP one day and telling her that I thought I was going mad. She wrote me out a referral to a psychiatrist and a prescription for medication. When I returned from the doctor’s, I found a book in my letter box. One of my sisters is a dab hand at choosing the most appropriate books for me and on this particular occasion, she hit the bullseye.
The book in question is The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. I’ve no doubt I have referenced it in a previous blog of mine as it has certainly made an impact on me since the day that I picked it up. The general gist of the book is this: We are all held back, in one way or another, some more than others, by habitual thoughts and emotions that prevent us from experiencing a fuller existence. The book engaged me in ways that transcended any need for medication or a visit to a psychiatrist. It gave me the ability to see that I wasn’t going mad, I was just a victim of my own lack of awareness.
If I am aware of my thoughts, then who am I?
This was the question the book made me ask of myself. It brought a new awareness to my way of seeing myself and the world. This awareness allowed me the space to dis-identify myself from my mind and help my consciousness to arise within me. In yoga we learn to just let the thoughts come and go without focusing on them. Fighting them is futile and uses up our energy in a negative way. The most effective way to deal with the myriad thoughts, images and ideas that constantly crowd the mind is by not taking them seriously. Knowing that our sense of self does not depend on them will give us the freedom we need to find our truth.
René Descartes said in 1637 ‘I think, therefore I am’ but I challenge that. I’m not sure what your take might be, but I reckon many of us would read this as a suggestion that we are our thoughts. I would be inclined to rewrite this to read ‘I know what I think, therefore I am’. The key is to be the one choosing the thoughts rather than being the one chosen by the thoughts. Until I started practicing awareness of my thoughts on a daily basis, I was regularly led down the garden path to places that were not good for me, and to doing things that were not serving my higher needs.
How often do you hear people say the words ‘Oh I could never do that’, ‘I’d be too scared to even try that’ or ‘I’m not capable of achieving stuff like that’? Far too often! People argue on behalf of their limits all the time and needless to say they win the argument every time. I love the Henry Ford quote that goes ‘If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you are right.’ According to Wim Hof, the Dutch extreme athlete, aka The Iceman, there is no limit to our brain power because the soul is the source. He has proven, through self-taught techniques that are backed up with scientific evidence, that we can change what happens in the body by the way we use our thoughts and our breathing. He has demonstrated that there is a clear link between the brain’s physiology and the psychology of the mind. There is hope that this could hold the promise of a more fulfilling life.
My inspired and inspiring nephew
My amazing nephew, Michael, is just 27 years old and has recently completed one of Wim Hof’s courses that entailed climbing snowy mountains for two hours in minus seven degrees Celsius with no shirt on his back. He used meditation and Wim Hof breathing techniques to regulate his own body temperature. I spoke to Michael a couple of weeks after he completed the expedition which also involved bathing in icy waters. I got the shivers at the mere mention of it! I wanted to know what benefits he believed he had reaped as a result of this extreme experience. ‘It all starts with a commitment,’ he told me. ‘The first step was the hardest but from there I discovered what I’m capable of, and it was more than I ever thought possible. This has been amazing for my confidence and ultimate happiness.’ I am so damn proud of this beautiful young man who is exploring the depths of his being and focusing on making his existence as meaningful as it can be. He also told me that one of the best things about the expedition was the connection he made with the 30 or so other participants, from a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. Wim Hof talks about connection in one of the interviews I listened to. He is of the belief that love is the greatest power of the universe. He said he believes a man’s strength is tested by how much love he can spread.
An awestruck aunt
If only I had been as inspired and as awestruck when I was my nephew’s age. But as he told me recently ‘it’s never too early and never too late.’ Besides, I must not lament for what was not and celebrate what is instead. I am going to explore Wim Hof and his method a bit more and see where it may take me. I know many of the testimonials on his website are from people who were living with great physical pain caused by arthritis and other auto-immune conditions, and who have found relief using this method. Wim Hof teaches us that we can over-ride the autonomic nervous system response using our own will. I find this absolutely fascinating.
For more information about this please follow the link https://www.wimhofmethod.com Details of the ‘Brain Over Body’ study conducted in the US in 2018 can also be found here. One of the findings of this study said that it may have implications for lifestyle interventions that could improve many clinical conditions that affect people. I, for one, am keen to learn more about this. Surely the ideal scenario is one where we stimulate our body’s own immune response and give it a chance to heal itself? I am going to approach this with an open mind and heart so as to ensure I get the best chance of advancing into old age as fit and healthy as possible. I will leave you with this quote from Wim Hof:
Your fitness is 100% mental. Your body won’t go where you mind doesn’t push it.
Thanks for your attention this week. Stay well.