Golden Dragon Acrobats, photo by mcline
Lately I have been ruminating on the spinning nature of mind : ). And a new friend inspired me to write about it.
Intrusive thoughts, such as the song you can not get out of your head, or what you would have said if you had thought of it in that not-so-wonderful interaction you had with so-and-so, or the worry you have about something happening in a certain way for you…these thoughts are distracting and highly energy consuming.
And like everything in this crazy yin-yang life, intrusive, ruminative thinking, even obsessive-compulsive second guessing, does have benefits and costs. Light and shadow. Movement and “stuckness”.
Spin Surfing, photo by mcline
The yogis taught the concept of Brahmacharya, discernment regarding how much we want or should invest of ourselves in any activity (like rumination). I like to think of Brahmacharya as a light of wisdom in my heart that can be used to reveal the color, texture, and evolutionary movement of the spinning, churning mosaic of the beautiful mind. It’s my way to be in the center of the spin without being consumed by it.
Spin Fire, mcline
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches Arjuna how to know Brahmacharya:
10:11 Because I am compassionate, I dwell in your heart, and from there remove the darkness of ignorance with the light of wisdom.
I once heard a fellow yogi liken brahmacharya to an oil lamp, a light of wisdom, that is fueled by the oil of contentment. The container of the oil is discernment. So if one knows and uses discernment, one has a container, a space, for contentment.
Your heart is the container for the wise light of discernment while the mind organizes the directive energy to act upon it. Discernment, as a form of wisdom, does not come from the mind alone..perhaps that would be prejudice or discrimination, but not discernment. Discernment is compassion and wisdom woven together. Brahmacharya is the action of the discerning, wise, and often spinning mind.
If we allow ourselves to “witness” the spin of the mind via meditation and therapeutic ways to compassionately work with obsessive-compulsive thinking, limitations and potentials are revealed. Some things are clear for our discernment…others are a blur of movement that will need time to understand.
Overhead Spin mcline
Here are some ideas for working with a spinning mind. Adapted from Jeffery Schwartz’s Brain Lock Unlock therapy, and Becky-ized to blend with an anatomic and yogic approach, I love how this allows me to intellectualize, visualize, somatize, and embody Brahmacharya. May it be a help to you too, my friends. : )
“Getting Unstuck: Surfing the Spinning Mind”
Mental “Stickness”: holding on to worries and/or becoming compulsive and driven by “habits” (obsessive thinking about worries, excessive concern about what others think about us, self image, the body, low self esteem, substance use, eating, compulsive second guessing…)
How to Get Unstuck: Intellectualize the Process
When we make a mistake, the following process happens:
- We get a “mistake feeling”, the nagging sense that something is wrong.
- We become anxious, and the anxiety drives us to correct the mistake.
- Once we have corrected the mistake, an “automatic gear shift” in the brain allows us to move on to the next thought or activity. Then both the “mistake feeling” and the anxiety disappear.
Brain Anatomy: We detect mistakes with the orbital frontal cortex. It activates the “mistake feeling” via neuropsychogenic pathways.
The cingulate gyrus receives that activation, and triggers the drive to correct the mistake. The cingulate gyrus is part of the limbic system, or “emotional brain”, and therefore the central nervous system. So we feel anxiety emotionally and physically (heart palpitations, perhaps nausea). A feeling of dread persists until we “fix” the issue. And sometimes afterwards.
The caudate nucleus is what allows our thought to flow away from the issue once it has been fixed, unless it is “sticky” with neutral pathway stimulation that does not cease below the “activation” threshold.
A malfunctioning caudate is one that is being overstimulated with signals from the orbital frontal cortex. This leads to hyperadrenal issues, panic attacks, and other psychogenic problems.
Spinning Landing mcline
Somatizing and Embodying the Healing: Two Key Steps to “getting unstuck” (getting the orbital frontal cortex to spin down):
- “Relabel” what is happening to you, so that you realize that you are experiencing not the specific content of the worry, but an episode of “worry stuckness” , perhaps a “worry attack”, or how about a “worry spin-out”. You could say to yourself, “yes I do have an issue right now, but more it’s me being “stuck” in worry, or having a worry spin out, than it is a crisis situation.” This allows a sense of separation, which begins to grow new neural pathways, diverting the flow from the overused “stuck” pathways to the new, fresh and unstuck ones.
- Do not focus on the content of the worry; refocus on a positive, wholesome, pleasurable giving activity when you have a worry spin out. This releases dopamine, and creates new neuropathways. It is essential to physically DO something so the caudate “shifts” manually. Meditate, yoga, walking, running, listen to music, talking about other subjects with a good friend…spin yourself right out of the stuckness and flow into a clarified state that allows you to approach the problem from a perspective of “thinking bigger”.
A meditation for you:
May I love myself just as I am.
May I sense my worthiness and well-being.
May I trust this world.
May I hold myself in compassion.
May I meet the suffering and ignorance of others with compassion.
Many ways to Be mcline
Namaste’ my friends!
Join me for “Yoga and Your Brain: A Love Story”, a workshop revealing the effect of yoga upon the brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to change ; complete with a practice to embody the teachings. July 18th 1-3:30 pm at the Bryan Center. Check out “classes and workshops” for cost/register info.