Tag Archives: thoughts

Who Controls Your Mind? (Hint: It’s Not Your Brain)

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By Deepak Chopra, MD

One of the easiest bets to win is to offer a million dollars to anyone who can accurately predict their next thought.  It would be foolhardy to accept such a bet. As we all experience every day–and yet rarely notice–our thoughts are unpredictable and spontaneous. They come and go at will, and yet strangely enough, we have no model for where a thought comes from.

This lack of understanding has serious medical significance in mental disorders, for example. A common symptom of various psychoses, particularly paranoid schizophrenia, is the belief that an outside force is controlling the patient’s mind, usually through an alien voice heard in the head. Being sane, a normal person has the opposite experience, that his thoughts are his own. But if that was true, we’d call up any thought we wanted to have, the way you can call up a Google search. But this is far from true.

If you are asked to add 2+2, you can call up the necessary mental process, and there are millions of similar tasks, such as knowing your own name, how to do your job, what it takes to drive a car home from work–these give us the illusion that we control our own minds. But someone suffering from anxiety or depression is the victim of uncontrolled mental activity, and even in everyday circumstances we have flashes of emotion that come of their own accord, along with stray thoughts of every kind. Artists speak of inspiration that strikes out of the blue. Love at first sight is a very welcome example of uncontrolled mental activity.

So at the very least, the human mind can’t be explained without understanding the dual control feature that gives us total control over some thoughts and zero control over others. That challenge is hard enough, but several others are just as thorny. If I listen to rap music and love it while you listen to the same music and loathe it, what creates this difference, given the same input? This is a vexing question for any theory that attempts to put the brain in charge of the mind. The brain is supposedly a machine for thinking. But what kind of machine churns out a different response to the same input? It’s like the world’s most dysfunctional candy machine. You put in a nickel, but instead of getting a gum ball every time, the machine spits out a poem or a delusion, a new idea, or a trite cliché, a great insight or a totally wrong conspiracy theory. Continue reading

5 Quotes from Deepak to Help You De-Stress During the Busy Holiday Season

As we enter the height of the holiday season we know that emotions are running high. It’s an exciting time of year! But with that comes a lot of stress – between family, money, personal and professional success – so there can be a lot of negative thoughts hanging out as well. When trying to think of coping mechanisms to offer our readers naturally the first person who popped into our heads was the man who hasn’t lost his temper in over 20 years. What does he say about stress? There are dozens of Deepak recommended stress relief routes but we compiled a few of our favorite quotes to help you get started.

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Being able to take a step back from a situation that is causing you to go negative can be beyond helpful. In some cases simply being able to let go of a problem because it’s not worth the negative energy is amazing. In others, walking away entirely may not be an option but if you can gain a new perspective you can see a new possible solution that refreshes your efforts and makes the problem easier to solve. If you know that certain situations cause you a higher level of stress then you can create the wherewithal to avoid them.

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Realizing the power, or lack there of, of your thoughts can be really helpful as well. Allow your mind to have them but don’t assign them any particular weight. Take a moment to be silent, allow your mind the thoughts that are causing you so much trouble and then let them go, because they are just that – thoughts. That only changes when you allow them to become actions.

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People constantly underestimate the value of sleep. When you are feeling tired and fatigued, allowing your body to refresh can give you a whole new round of energy to tackle your battles. If you can do yourself just one favor this holiday season make sure it is that you are allowing your body (and thus your mind and spirit) to take a break every once in a while. Being refreshed automatically puts you in a healthier state of mind to take on the tasks of the day.

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Our physical state reflects how we are experiencing the world – so if we stay in a state of stress or negativity it will manifest itself in our physical presence. This is why it is so vital not to dwell in those states. Remember to breathe, walk away if you can, or find the place within yourself where you feel centered and calm. Look for the positive silver linings of a situation to help you wade through the darker aspects. When you have faith that there is a light at the end of the tunnel you create a brighter outlook for yourself and that outlook will also manifest itself physically and give you more motivation to move on.

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Meditation. It is our number one recommended method of detoxing your body and spirit of stress and negativity. You don’t have to spend hours a day – just take two minutes between your tasks to be silent and breathe. Just sixty seconds can allow you to find your center and calm. Taking these mini breaks can help you remain balanced when everyone and everything else is driving you crazy. Every little bit helps and if it stops you from exploding then you’ll feel all that much better for it.

Do you have a favorite quote that helps you de-stress in a moment of panic? Share it with us in the comments below!

Deepak Chopra: You Are Not Your Body or Your Mind

What are the components that make up an identity? Stated another way, who are we and why? Day to day, we are most aware of the bodies that move us from place to place and the minds that construct thoughts and words. Even impulses and ineffable motivations, like the pursuit of morality, the desire for love, and the occasional waves of intuition might be explained away by science and psychology. But are these the only factors that define us? In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra discusses the true nature of who we are, at the core of our existence.

What is comes down to, and what many of us already feel, we are neither our bodies nor our minds in totality. Our bodies and minds rather exist within us, within our consciousness, which is greater and more complete than a mere collection of cells or series of synaptic connections.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts and subscribe to The Chopra Well!

Today’s Thoughts Are Tomorrow’s History

LindsayQuite often we put too much importance on our thoughts and take them so seriously that they can lead us into all kinds of emotional turmoil. Some thoughts are inspiring while others can be misleading. One time we were teaching meditation and Ed said to Mary, a participant, that when we meditate all sorts of outrageous thoughts may arise. In response Mary blurted out, “Wow, how’d you know?” Because of her negative thoughts, Mary felt she was a terrible person. Yet thoughts are simply words in our mind. Those we thought yesterday are gone and new thoughts arise only to disappear into the next moment.

We lived in Dartmouth, on the south coast of England, and each day we would take walks along the wide river Dart to the estuary. One day we were standing and gazing at the flowing water when it struck us that though the river always looked the same, day after day, it was no more the same than it was even a second ago. It was constantly changing, always moving, always different.

Which is just like our thoughts and feelings. Can you remember what you were thinking yesterday that seemed so important? Who we are now is not who we were last week, an hour ago, even a few minutes ago. Like the river, we are always changing.

Ed was seeing with new eyes as he looked at the river, free of the clutter of his own projections or judgments. Normally we are looking through the lens of our prejudices and needs, through past regrets or future hopes, but without these we find each moment is infused with uniqueness, that everything is constantly fresh, new and unknown.

You can experience this by looking with awareness, as if you have never been here before. Everything you see is completely new to you, completely unknown, waiting to be explored and discovered. Whether you are brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or any other equally mundane act, you can see it completely through new eyes.

A monk asks, ‘Is there anything more miraculous than the wonders of nature?’ The master replies, ‘Yes, your awareness of the wonders of nature.’ –Angelus Silesius

All you have to do is pay attention without expectation. By paying attention you see yourself, others, and all things just as they are, enabling you to see the inherent beauty within each one. You get to see the fleeting nature of your own thoughts, how they just come and go like clouds in the sky, and what remains is your essence.

Being mindful in this way extends you beyond yourself. It takes you out of me-centeredness and into awareness of connectedness, of yourself in relation to everything and everybody else.

Walking In Nature

Take a walk in nature – whether in a city park, through a forest, on a beach, or by a lake. Make this time an opportunity to see with new eyes as if you have never seen it before: the colors and shapes, the smells and sounds.

Open yourself to the exquisiteness of the natural world. If it is raining then enjoy the feeling of water on your face, appreciate how it is nourishing the earth and the plants; if it is windy then marvel at the power of nature, a force that is beyond your control; if it is cloudy then observe the subtle colors and the softness of the air. Be aware of each footstep.

Although we protect ourselves from nature with raincoats, boots, gloves and hats, we are a part of it and we need the nourishment of the earth, the plants, the sun, the wind and rain. When we see with new eyes the world becomes a treasure.

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Join our Be The Change Meditate e-Conference that will uplift and inspire you. 30 eclectic meditation teachers, including Marianne Williamson, Congressman Tim Ryan, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Gangaji, Joan Borysenko, Seane Corn, neuroscientist Richie Davidson, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Stiles, and us, Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the conference companion book, BE THE CHANGE: How Meditation Can Transform You and The World. Expect your life to never be the same again!

For more information: www.edanddebshapiro.com

 

Photo credit: Mike Monaghan

How to Let Go Instead of Giving Up

Sunset Party Dancing Girl SilhouetteThe greatest stress in life is the stress we cannot control. Perhaps, it is no coincidence that at some point so many of us experience a painful, debilitating back pain which is actually the corresponding physical symptom of feeling like we have lost control of a situation or relationship. In other words: We want to be “back in power.”

Consequently at night, we cannot control our thoughts and have trouble letting go of what we should have said or done during the day. This is evidenced by our difficulty to stay asleep once we fall asleep. And when we don’t sleep, we are even more stressed and achy the next day. Basically, we are stuck.

The good news is that the body sends us signals regarding those stuck mindsets. The inability to let go of anger, negative thinking and that sense of failure tends to create inflammation in a specific body part, usually our weakest link. When you have a specific pain which the doctor has difficulty addressing, consider the emotional counterpart. Awareness of what your pain is trying to tell you  makes it go away as soon as you figure out the message. For example, when you are angry with another, you are most angry with the self for letting this person hurt you or take advantage. Ultimately you give up on the special relationship or quit the dream job instead of letting go of the hurt/anger. Isn’t it time to stop the self-sabotage?

You don’t have to give up on a relationship, quit a generally solid job, or give up a professional educational track because you feel powerless or diminished. A proven remedy is to let go of your self-criticism, your “perceived” hurt and humiliation, while you work through the uncomfortable situation or relationship with a kinder interpretation.

Consider these two questions:

* How much time and energy have you spent absorbed in all this negativity?
* What have you given up due to these negative emotions?

Know how to let go of self-blame while at the same time working on self-correction to do better. When you know how to let go of anger and shame, you can speak to yourself and to others like a compassionate coach or mentor with words of encouragement to transform a failure into a success. The ultimate question always is: Can you have compassion for yourself? When you are kind to yourself, you will be kind to others. Transform criticism into correction.

To let go instead of give up:

  • Have a heart to heart dialogue with yourself: “What am I not seeing about this situation?”
  • Be aware of your habitual reactions, breathe deeply, reconsider, and respond.
  • Stop putting yourself down. It’s time to lift yourself up and you will act from this higher vantage point instead of low down stressed out emotions.
  • Use humor to reinterpret the negativity. Seeing the inherent humor or the ultimate absurdity will most likely help you to find a solution.
  • Benjamin Franklin said that there was never a good war or a bad peace. Aim for peace in your own life and the lives of others.

Super Thoughts: 5 Ways to Make Yours Empowering

Beata Zita“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.” ~Author Unknown

I’m a long-time believer in the power of our thoughts, and I tend to focus on the positive. But, sometimes, those darn thoughts just spin out of control and go on their own little tangent, taking us along for the ride. This happened to me recently, but it served as a good reminder of just how powerful our thoughts are.

I was messing around online when an article caught my eye. There was a local headline about a fatal motorcycle crash. Eeek, bad news, for sure. Normally, I would avoid clicking on such an article just because I prefer not to fill my conscious with the gruesome details of the unfortunate things going on in the world. However, I couldn’t help but click this time. You see, my father sometimes rides a motorcycle and the crash happened within a few miles of his home. I felt a strong urge to read more. When I clicked on the article and started reading the details, my heart sank. While the identity of the motorcyclist was not released, the details of the crash had it taking place on a road, in a direction, and at a time that could have easily been my dad. I gulped. Very aware of my own body, I could suddenly feel my heart rate quicken and my breathing become more shallow as my chest tightened up. It was an uneasy, although not completely unfamiliar feeling. I started to feel a deep sadness and worry. I did not like it at all.

“Okay, wait a second,” I said to myself. I had no idea how many motorcycles drive down that road on a given morning, but it had to be a lot. It was a very busy intersection, after all. Plus, I didn’t even know for sure if my dad drove his bike that day, or if he even took that route. There was no real logic behind the sudden panic feeling. I was being crazy, and I knew it. In fact, I did confirm shortly thereafter that all was well with my father. Phew.

This example of the human mind at work is something we can all relate to. It’s just how we’re wired. From back in the caveman days, we were programmed with a “fight or flight” trigger, which used to have a very real purpose (you know, running away from dinosaurs and such). Though we have evolved quite a bit since then, our brains are still wired very similarly. The reaction I felt in my body was actually a defense mechanism. My brain was preparing me for danger. And, despite the incredibly low probability of that bad news actually pertaining to me, from a logical perspective, my brain treated it as if it was actually happening to me. In fact, the feeling was so real that it was indeed my reality for those few moments while the feelings took place. I had created my own illusion just like each and everyone of us go around creating our own illusions on a daily basis. Our perception is our reality.

I tell this story to help others become more acutely aware of their own thoughts and just how incredibly powerful they are. Isn’t it funny how our brains work? From worrying about something that hasn’t even actually happened to reliving a moment in the past to making assumptions that what other people do or say has anything to do with us at all – these are all ways that our mind likes to create illusions for us! And, yes, we are ALL a little bit “crazy” like this at times.

The good news is that as powerful as our thoughts are, we can work to take control of them and harness that power for good. Here are a few pointers on how to do just that.

  1. What are you thinking? Notice whenever your mind starts reeling and also take note of the physical changes in your body. Knowing really is half the battle. A mentor of mine, Angela Jia Kim of Savor the Success, says there are really only two types of thoughts: empowering ones and dis-empowering ones. Simplify it to that level, and learn to ask yourself in any given moment, how is this thought serving me?
  2. Check Yourself. Don’t get me wrong sometimes we really are in danger … but, usually not. Is there really a “dinosaur” chasing you? Is it really about you? Give your self an ego-check. In addition to trying to protect us from (often imaginary) danger, our ego likes to make us feel really special and like everything is about us. But, upon a little logical reasoning, we can realize that whatever dis-empowering thoughts we are having are not actually about us or even real at all. With this awareness in hand, we can then work towards changing them.
  3. Just breathe. This simple nugget of wisdom can be applied to just about any uncomfortable situation. Breathe it out. Deep breathing actually has a physiological effect on our nervous system that sends out neurohormones to basically tell the stress hormones to take a chill. Visualize as you practice breathing. Inhale peace slowly and deeply through your nose into your diaphragm and exhale stress slowly and completely out through your mouth. Continue this until you feel calmness restore.
  4. Fill your consciousness with positive and uplifting ideas. Since thoughts are energy and they turn into our reality, why not feed your brain with some good stuff? From the articles you read to the people you hang out with, to the TV you watch (or not), you are setting the stage for what kind of thoughts will go into that beautiful little noggin of yours. Fuel your mind with knowledge that empowers you. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.
  5. Practice Mindfulness. I can’t recommend a mindfulness practice enough. It helps us become so much more aware of our thoughts and what’s going on with our bodies. It keeps us connected with our core being and intuition. While meditation is definitely at the top of the list of becoming more mindful, there are many other ways you can practice. Yoga is another wonderful one. However, it can also be taking an introspective walk or doing your favorite in-the-flow activity: maybe painting, sewing, or playing an instrument. Regularly practicing these mindfulness enhancers will help you stay grounded, and to keep those crazy thoughts at bay.

Learn to harness the power of your thoughts and enjoy the reward of unlimited peacefulness and joy!

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photo by: ckaroli

Deepak Chopra: Can We Influence Our Own Evolution?

Is evolution a complex process that we have nothing to do with, or is there any way we can actually influence our own evolution? In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak explores how can we influence human evolution as well as the evolution of the cosmos.

Our feelings, thoughts, perceptions, cognition, internal mental activity, and behavior changes in every moment. The neural architecture of our brain responds to both internal and external reactions which we create through our own choices. Thus, as we think, feel and emote – we affect the expression of our genes and expression of genes in others. Your genes are activated right now watching this video, and we are influencing each other, and thus, in a sense, influencing evolution.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and never stop activating your curiosity!

Deepak Chopra: What Is Enlightened Awareness?

Perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and everything else we experience in life comprise the contents of our awareness. How, then, do we move from passive awareness to enlightened awareness?

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak discusses methods for developing enlightened awareness and moving toward universal consciousness:

How do we know that we, other people, and the world exist? Because we are aware of their existence. How do we experience our world? We experience them as thoughts, sensations, feelings, moods, and images in consciousness. All that exists is awareness and the contents of awareness. To know this and to feel this is to have grounding in a universal awareness. Our world is only a “qualia gestalt”, a perception in our quality of awareness. To be able to be grounded in that understanding is moving in the direction of enlightened awareness.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Deepak Chopra: What is Our True Identity?

At some point in our lives, we all ask ourselves, “Who am I, really?”

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra examines this question by looking at what constitutes mental reality and how that reality affects our sense of identity. Does mental reality boil down to thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, and sensations? Is the observer of perception free of perception?

So – who are you, really? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and never stop exploring!

Tara Brach: Suffering–The Call To Investigate Beliefs

“Reality is always kinder than the stories we tell about it.” – Byron Katie

Can you imagine understanding, even loving, someone who belongs to a group of people responsible for killing your father, brother, or best friend? Can you imagine growing close to someone whose people have driven you from your home, humiliated your family, and turned you into a refugee in your own country?

Twenty-two teenage girls from Israel and Palestine were flown in to a camp in rural New Jersey, where they would live together in the face of these questions. As part of a program called Building Bridges for Peace, these young people were called upon to examine beliefs that seemed central to their identity, beliefs that had fueled estrangement, anger, hatred, and war.

Even though they had volunteered for the program, the girls were initially mistrustful of each other, and sometimes overtly hostile. One Palestinian teen drew a line in the sand right from the start: “When we’re here, who knows, maybe we’re friends. When we return, you are my enemy again. My heart is filled with hatred for the Jews.” In another exchange, an Israeli girl told a Palestinian: “You expect to be treated as a human being, but you don’t act like one. You don’t deserve human rights!”

Yet from this harsh beginning, some of the girls left camp having formed deep bonds, and for most, it became impossible to see each other as the enemy. What allowed for this change of heart? The girls contacted thetruth of each other’s pain and the truth of each other’s goodness. Reality, when we let it in, dismantles the iron grip of our beliefs. As one Israeli girl put it, “If I don’t know you, it’s easy to hate you. If I look in your eyes, I can’t.”

The Buddha taught that ignorance—ignoring or misunderstanding reality—is the root of all suffering. What does this mean? He surely didn’t mean to deny the inevitable pains and losses in our lives, but he wanted his followers to grasp how their beliefs about what is happening—their thoughts about themselves, others, and the world—represented a contracted and fragmented view of reality. This distorted view, described by the Buddha as a dream, fueled the cravings and fears that confined their lives.

The Buddha also told an ancient teaching story that we still repeat to our children. A king instructs a group of blind men to describe an elephant. Each man feels one part of the elephant’s body—the tusk, leg, trunk, tail. Each gives a detailed—and very different—report about the nature of the elephant. Then they come to blows about who’s right. Each man is honestly describing his immediate and real experience, yet each misses the big picture, the whole truth.

Every belief we hold is a limited snapshot, a mental representation, and not reality itself. But some beliefs are more fear-based and injurious than others. Like the teens in Building Bridges, we may believe that certain people are evil. We may believe that we can’t trust anyone. We may believe that we’re fundamentally flawed and can’t trust ourselves.

These beliefs all arise from the primary fear-based belief the Buddha identified: that we are separate from the rest of the world, vulnerable, and alone. Whether our beliefs arouse self-loathing, trap us in self-destructive addictions, ensnare us in conflict with a partner, or send us to war with an enemy, we’re suffering because we’re mistaken about reality. Our beliefs narrow our attention and separate us from the living truth of how things are. They cut us off from the full aliveness, love, and awareness that is our source.

The sage Sri Nisargadatta teaches “illusion exists . . . because it is not investigated.” If we are attached to untrue beliefs, it’s because we have not examined our thoughts. We have not met them with mindful investigation; we have not asked whether they truly represent our current, living experience of reality.

Suffering is our call to attention, our call to investigate the truth of our beliefs.For the teenage girls in Building Bridges, the call to investigate was the hatred tearing at the fabric of their lives and society.

For a parent, the call might be the stranglehold of worry about a child’s welfare. For a social activist, it might be exhaustion and despair in face of seemingly endless war and injustice. For a musician, it might be the disabling terror that accompanies performance. Wherever we feel most endangered, most separate, most deficient—that is where we need to shine the light of our investigation.

Adapted from True Refuge  (for sale Jan, 2013)

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

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photo by: Neal.