Grow Yourself! (so you can take control of your life)

Ok, so we’ve made our New Years’ resolutions and it’s now the end of February. Most of us want to improve our lives—by improving ourselves, our health, physical and emotional, our relationships, and our effectiveness in life. We know what we “should” be doing, but…

Making changes in our lives– changing routines, habits, and overcoming dysfunctional patterns— all involve learning to think differently. In doing so we can become more efficient and effective, more focused and deliberate; healthier both physically and emotionally.

Why do we put off what we know is best for our body physically and emotionally? The things that we know would help us function more effectively?
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Introduction: Harnessing the Power of your Mind

from the text version of the Potent Mind audio CD

Do you understand your emotions? Do you judge them? Do you ever wonder if you’re going crazy, or what your mental disorder might be? Would you like to understand yourself and your emotions better? If you did, you would probably learn that you’re more normal than you think.

Do you ever ask yourself: why do I feel the way I do? Is what I feel important? In what ways? When can I trust what I feel and when should I not? How can I “feel better?” How can I make other people feel better?

Have you ever had difficulty letting go of resentments toward others about things that happened? Do you ever blame yourself, perhaps beating yourself up or kicking yourself emotionally, repeatedly, even when you can see there’s no benefit to it? Do you find yourself obsessing around and around, about the past, or perhaps about what’s going to happen in the future? Do you ever feel insecure, about whether you are “good enough”, or “adequate”, or whether or not other people will judge you as such? Are you afraid to say no? Are you afraid of people who might “emotionally persecute” you? Do you ever feel like you’re marked with a “V” for victim? Do you tend to jump in and rescue people? Do you ever lose control of your anger and say or do things that you later regret? In addition to the emotional suffering this causes it wastes much of our precious mind resources with preoccupations and unnecessary concerns. That removes so much of our consciousness from out of the present, where it’s really needed. I’ll teach you specific techniques and skills which can eliminate those obstacles.

In this course I’ll teach you how to:

  • let go of hostility, resentment and guilt
  • worry and obsess less
  • reduce stress. Even better, do more and have less stress
  • find tranquility in this chaotic world
  • be more present, enjoy life more, and have more clarity in decision-making
  • accept yourself and also strive to become better
  • have more love and compassion in your life

What do we mean by a Potent Mind? We would want clarity of thinking, being able to focus on what we want to focus on when we need to, thinking objectively even in the midst of distracting information and emotions. We would want to be able to relate to, but act independent of what’s going on around us. We would want to have a sense of calmness, peacefulness in our mind, to be relatively free of negative emotions such as guilt, resentments, hurts, or fears. We might also want a sense of comfort with our self, and adaptability to varying situations. You can have this!

We can be most effective and healthy mentally when our mind is clear, our emotions calm, our attention is in the present, and we are aware of our goals and priorities. It is said that we only utilize 10% of our brain. If we could learn to utilize another 5% that would be a huge increase! You can learn to utilize parts of your brain that have been mostly dormant, or used only spontaneously or accidently.

New technology such as functional MRI can show us live in real-time what areas of our brain become active (or quiet) when we relax, or when we feel certain emotions such as anger, fear, or compassion. We can now connect findings of these scans with what we know about sickness and wellness and understand what we need to do in order for our mind to be healthier and more effective. By strengthening our mind, we will also be strengthening our body, our relationships, and our potential to contribute to society, the planet, and the universe.

Evidence is increasing that stress and anxiety are costly in terms of physical damage to our body, via cortisol, the cardio-vascular and immune systems, and direct damage to brain cells. Most people would agree that holding in anger, resentment or other emotions creates many problems in terms of tension and frustration, hostility, and sometimes depression. This can also become distracting, reducing our effectiveness, and interfere with our relationships and goals. Most would also agree that low self esteem– lack of confidence, excessive self-doubt are handicaps. Anxiety, stress, maintenance of dysfunctional and sometimes self-destructive patterns, pride, resentment, as well as other emotions and impulses frequently get in the way of reaching our full potential.

A recent article in a neuropsychiatric journal described functional MRI studies involving resentment and forgiveness. A study using cognitive therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder showed improvement in symptoms related to learning how to be more forgiving. That is, letting go of resentments. These exciting scientific studies are starting to bridge huge gaps between Buddhist and religious themes of forgiveness, compassion, and mindfulness, on the one hand and Western psychological models of emotions and psychodynamics on the other.

Studies with similar types of scanners have shown that a specific part of the brain lights up when we focus on ourself as different and unique from others, versus another part of the brain which is utilized when we lose track of ourselves, and focus more on the universe, our interconnectedness, and more cosmic and spiritual types of things. Each has advantages and disadvantages and there are times when one focus is more beneficial than the other. We can learn to utilize the part of our brain that will be most useful to us in the moment.

I hear some people say, in effect, I don’t do feelings. We may often wish that we didn’t feel, or that we could only feel positive and not negative emotions. Emotions have evolutionary value. Doing feelings wisely can reduce the suffering from negative emotions and give you a sense of peace and fulfillment. Doing feelings wisely can help you not only to survive but to thrive.

There are many skills that you can learn and practice wherever you are in the spectrum of psychological wellness to psychological illness. The model that I present, and the skills I introduce can be put to use by most anyone. If you’re serious about this, apply what you’re hearing, seek additional guidance through books and CDs (see bibliography), workshops and groups when you can find them. If you run into trouble a therapist might be helpful. The rewards for your work to strengthen your mind will be multiplied as you see the effects on your body and physical health, on your relationships and your career, in having a better sense of a place in the universe, and overall quality of life. In a practical, nuts and bolts fashion, this audio will outline how to get from here to there.