Reining in my Brain – Part II

After I finished writing ” Reining in my Brain – Part I ” I walked next door and asked Haruka if she was experiencing a lack of concentration, a feeling of being out of control or an inability to experience a sense of closure at the end of the day. Her answer was “No.” Her mind was at ease.

Like me, Haruka uses her computer, but in measured doses at specific times of her day. I tend to have my browser open all day and it tugs at my concentration, whispering, “You might be missing something important – you better check.” So I find myself checking my email a dozen times a day and it feels like my computer is using me, not the other way around.

Haruka admitted she was having trouble staying focused a month ago. Now that the rice is harvested and they are in between CSA sessions, their life is down to a dull roar. “But, there are still plenty of things you could be stressing over,” I suggested “your parents are coming to visit next week and you are starting up your winter CSA next month.” “That’s true,” she laughed, “but today, all I have to do is clean the house.”

Haruka said that both she and Jason have been a lot calmer since reading a certain book. She went in the other room and returned with a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and lent it to me.

I began reading “The Power of Now” that evening. The author begins by encouraging his readers to observe the chatter of their minds with the goal of separating themselves from that chatter. The monologue of the brain is not who we are, he points out.

Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future.

Don’t judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don’t make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher. – Eckhart  Tolle

I started listening to my mental chatter. What I heard was, “I should have done this,” and “I need to do that,” or “I can’t believe they didn’t do whatever,” often drowning out thoughts like “Wow, look at that color,” or “I love that smell,” or “This feels great!” I began noticing how hard my mind was working to keep me from being present. I began to feel more control.

About this time, I decided to turn off my computer before dinner so I wouldn’t be tempted to chase my mouse down the Facebook/Email/Newsfeed rabbit hole until 10:00pm. My anxiety levels decreased a little more.

That next weekend, Tami sponsored my registration in a non-violent communication workshop. Instructor Jesse Wiens of Zenvc had us begin by listening to what our minds were saying. Next he asked us to notice our feelings and finally, our needs. In a number of exercises, we learned different ways to connect with ourselves and each other in a non-judgmental, non-violent way. It was powerful to realize that every one of us have the same needs, fears and distractions.

It’s been about a month since I decided to look for answers and I’m pleased with everything that I’ve found. I feel much calmer, more in control, better able to concentrate. In a word, happier!

It helps that I have very few work deadlines at the moment, but I could be obsessing over end of year reporting, file archiving and the Spring workshop schedule and I’m not. I’ve got a new outlook, and am developing new tools. I now feel secure that if I find my mind jumping into the future, I know how to rein it back in.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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