I got it in my head once that I wanted to run a marathon. And of course, instead of starting to train slow,Â two milesÂ a day for aÂ week, and then three milesÂ a day for aÂ week, IÂ decided to jump right in and run 7 miles forÂ my first training run. Let’s just say thatÂ walking the next day was a little bit less than pleasant.
My coworker, being the incredibly nice guy that he is, would walk up and pretend he was going to punch me in the leg.Â Naturally I involuntarily contracted my thigh muscles, causing an unbelievable amount of pain. He did that all day long. I grimaced, he laughed.Â Even when I saw him coming, and knew what he was up to, I still couldn’t help but to contract my muscles when he wound up on me. Kind of when the doctor hits your knee with that little hammer that he has. Except that is kind of cool. This was rather painful.
I’ve heard from psychologists that stress effects the mind the same way. Something happens in the world, and no matter how much we are expecting it,Â or see it coming, our mind contracts, causing unneeded and unresourceful mental anxiety. So what’s the answer?Â One way to train your mind to relax is through meditation. There are many medically proven benefits to a daily meditation practice. Lower blood pressure, better sleep, more energy during the day, better clarity of thought. When you think about it, all these benefits can easily be explained by a mind that has been trained to be relaxed when you want it to.
And just like when you relax your body by not moving your muscles, you relax your mind by not moving your thoughts. One way to still your mind is to count your breaths. One, breath in. Breath out slow. Two, breath in, breath out slow. Focus only on the numbers. Release all other thoughts. If other thoughts drift into your mind, just allow them to continue drifting, until theyÂ float all the wayÂ past and fall off the edge of your consciousness. It doesn’t really matter if you sit in a chair, or on the floor, or even lie on your bed when you do this. Breath in, one. Breath out. Breath in, two, breath out. A good goal to aim for is to get to three without noticing any other thoughts. When you can get up to three, shoot for five, and then ten. Slow. In. Out. And it doesn’t matter how long you do it, a few minutes is really all you need.
As you continue toÂ improve your skills, you will notice that because you are able to release thoughts easier and easier, those oldÂ ideas that used to cause you anxiety can’t doÂ so as much any more. And sooner or later, you will come to the liberating realization that it wasn’t those ideas at all that was doing it, it was your mind’s reaction to them. And the more you train your mind, the more it seems you can shape your reality.
WhileÂ you walk through the world with your less reactive mind, you will naturally start to see opportunities that you didn’t see before, so much soÂ you will wonder why you didn’t realize you could do this earlier.