It's All in the Mind. Or is it? (are you holding yourself back where you could be flourishing?)
The Believing Brain…
One of the things I work with clients on is how much of what we do is based on an assumption, and not on fact, how much we rule things in or out, and how much we judge ourselves and others (however innocently) on the basis of what we think, rather than what’s true.
And, we don’t even see it.
That’s why there’s such an innocence, and why there’s such power in seeing where we are operating from a false premise.
The more we can see it, the easier it is to see through it.
When we see through something, well, we see so much more about what’s possible — and that’s where the ultimate freedom of mind comes from.
Or freedom of body, as I found out yesterday…
The ‘Weight’ of the Impossible…
I was at the gym, in a weights’ class I’ve started to do so that I can build more strength and overcome my lower back pain.
The instructor put out a barbell for us to deadlift, something I haven’t done before, but it looked possible, if a little tough.
It was as if it was a joke bar, glued to the floor with the strongest glue; a ‘dead’ lift, pun intended, with not even a millimetre of movement.
When Assumptions Look Real…
My back didn’t spasm or hurt, my mind didn’t feel scared of the weight, there was nothing conscious for me to ‘overcome’, my body simply could not make the lift.
All I experienced was surprise.
And that’s the seductive power of the mind. We aren’t being ‘soft’, or making things up, we are literally stopped in our tracks by something that looks true.
The instructor, who knows me a bit, said,
Come on you can do it, Cathy.
And, because I know that I am living in the experience of my mind, not the experience of reality, I was happy to allow her to guide me, happy to allow myself to try again, happy to know that, in that moment, I’m responding, innocently, yet unhelpfully, to a habitual pattern of thought and chemicals, calling a halt to muscle activity.
In that moment I couldn’t ‘see’ my assumption, but I knew it was there. And that was enough to keep me in the game, to keep me trying.
I did eventually lift the barbell. It took me a few attempts to get it off the ground and a little more time to do the ten reps she wanted.
Maybe it would have taken a few days of trying, but, because I know where my experience is coming from, even when it looks 100% solid and real, I know enough to listen beyond my experience and to take actions that appear in my best interests.
Don’t be an Idiot!
I’m not saying ‘always go for the deadlift’ or ‘always have the difficult conversation’. No, that could be damaging to your body or damaging to your relationships.
What I am saying is that there’s a wisdom beyond your first thought, a deeper wisdom that can guide you when you’re prepared to look through what looks and feels temporarily true.
We’ve all experienced moments of apprehension, of cold feet, of anxiety, and we’ve all experienced what it’s like step up regardless. What was interesting about the weights’ class was how real the physical limitation felt. How impossible to lift, no matter how hard I tried.
And yet… I also knew, because this is how the mind works, that it was a mental limitation, not a physical one.
A Line in the Sand
I sometimes use a metaphor with clients about the difference between a line in the sand and a cliff edge.
We often think we are approaching a cliff edge — there is something dangerous and painful awaiting us if we step beyond whatever it is we see as the edge of the cliff. And no-one wants that, right! If it looks as if there is a cliff, then of course we keep away from the edge.
But what if the edge of the cliff is an optical illusion and it’s really just a line in the sand, some paint cleverly drawn on the grass. Once we see that then we can dance back and forth, we can jump, we can skip around and ignore it, doing whatever we choose.
This moment with the barbell was one of those for me.
What felt like an insurmountable physical challenge was a painted line on the gym floor. And putting my trust in experience, and my faith in how the mind works, I was prepared to step over to the safety of the other side.
That’s the gift of seeing that we operate mostly blindly, guided by assumptions that we never think to challenge. The more we see that to be true, the fewer cliff edges we experience.
Thank you my clever brain for trying to protect me, I see that you have a good intention.
But I also see that I can’t always trust you to guide me and looking beyond the assumptions you’re presenting me with is where I have the ultimate freedom to live a full and active life.