Stop Overthinking and Get Your Flow Back
Flow is the natural unfolding of things as experienced by a calm, centered mind. Flow happens when you tap into a deeper, wiser, part of yourself; the unfearing, loving, connected self.
Overthinking. We all do it at some point in our lives. Overthinking is a torturous road and it repeats itself until you feel half insane or takes steps to stop it. Some call it ‘monkey mind’; once one monkey takes over your brain a whole tribe comes to join in the fun. It sounds like this:
Why did this happen?
What did I do to deserve that?
How can I do things just right so I don’t have to suffer?
What am I going to do?
What is going to happen?
How will others respond if I do this?
What if I do it wrong?
REPEAT…over and over again.
Life happens. Bad stuff happens. Good stuff happens. You do your best and watch what transpires. Overthinking is fertile ground for telling false stories about yourself, about others. Overthinking causes you to ask questions that are impossible to answer. Overthinking makes it hard to make good decisions. Overthinking wastes precious time and creates an inner atmosphere of anxiety. Overthinking zaps creativity, and makes you tired. Overthinking increases the chances of or worsens depression. Overthinking is based in fear; of not being good enough, of thinking your upset world will never right itself, of the unknown, of losing control. As soon as the monkeys enter flow disappears.
I will not go into psychological causes of overthinking here because it is different for everyone. I will say that a good therapist can guide you toward finding the root of your overthinking and help you find healing for early childhood wounding.
Here is an example of how overthinking a situation can upset flow:
There were two people, a man and a woman, who appeared compatible to their friends and acquaintances at church. His wife had died. She was divorced. He had three children. She had no children, though she always wished she did, and she was beyond childbearing. They were both kind, generous, gentle souls who discovered they liked each other after friends set up a blind date. They shared things in common and enough differences to make life interesting. She was a few years older, yet they remained peers.
The woman was ready to explore a relationship. The man, however, had a list of criteria to fulfill. For one thing he never wanted to experience the pain of losing a beloved again. He watched his wife dwindle away from cancer and he was not about to do that again. He thought this new woman was too old. He thought she might die before him and cause him more heartache. He thought that since she was divorced there must be something wrong with her. He didn’t ask, but thought she would not want to raise someone else’s children or quit her job to stay at home with them.
He ended up marrying another person much younger than he, certain he could live problem-free. His well organized mind checked off things on his “perfect woman” list and he asserted that lightning couldn’t strike twice as far as her health was concerned. Two years later they were on the verge of divorce. She would help out with his children but she wanted her own as well. She was angry that he refused to comply. He was angry that she did not accept his children as enough. Other problems mounted until no solution could be found.
I wonder what might have happened had he let go of overthinking and flowed with the first woman? Did this man’s scrutiny help him? You know the answer.
Your mind can deceive you.
Most of us go into our minds for answers because we have been taught that everything happens there, much to our disadvantage. A mind clear of negative self-talk and festering childhood emotional wounds can be your friend. If you live with runaway thoughts, your mind will mislead you and get you into trouble more often than not.
Here are some practices to engage your heart and plug into the flow:
- Work to heal your childhood wounds. A qualified therapist (I recommend Rubenfeld Synergy Method) will help you see how old wounds keep you stuck in behaviors that no longer serve you and often hurt you. We all have wounds that can unconsciously affect our adult lives in detrimental ways. Life is better once you discover your happiness is an inside job. If finances are a concern, free counseling services are available.
- Meditate. There are multitudes of meditation styles to explore. Choose one that suits your personality and needs: sitting meditation, guided meditation (a huge boon to overthinking minds because your mind automatically turns toward the voice you are listening to), walking meditation, Tratak (the practice of staring at a single object for extened periods, such as a candle, flower, body of water).
- Breathwork. Most in modern society have stunted insufficient breath. When you focus on taking full breaths you calm your mind and body. A full inhale goes all the way down to your abdomen. With practice it is possible to feel as though your whole body is breathing. Pay attention to the rising and falling of your chest, diaphragm, and lower belly. Set aside at least 15 minutes a day to focus on your breath. Sit or lie down in a comfortable spot. If you are sitting, sit up straight with feet flat on the floor. For the first 5 minutes it helps to follow a rhythm: inhale for a count of 6, hold for 7, exhale for 6, hold for 7. Then relax and breath normally. This may feel unnatural for a while if you have been used to improper breathing for a long time. Later you may wish to increase the length of your breathwork sessions.
- Traditional Hatha Yoga. Traditional yoga brings you into your body and calms your mind when done properly. The basic premise is ahimsa or non-violence toward your body, your mind, and others. You will quickly learn if you tend to push to hard, let your mind lead, or go beyond what is healthy for you. Once you learn to listen to what your body is trying to tell you, you will realize your body/mind/spirit is much more willing to relax, open, slow down, and cooperate than you ever thought possible. In yoga, less is more and comfort is key.
- Shamanic Walking. Regular walking, whether fast-paced or a stroll, is good but there is a tendency to continue overthinking. Shamanic walking takes you out of your thoughts as follows: Bring attention to your breath for several moments. Listen to the rhythm of your breath. Observe the response of your body as you pick up your pace. Now, with eyes peering straight ahead, turn your attention to what is in your periphery. Keep your eyes looking ahead as you switch your intentional focus; What is to your right? What is to your left? What is above you? What is below you? If thoughts try to enter, return to the practice.
- Journal. Write down a list of your concerns before doing any of the above practices. Writing things down is a physical technique that gets the worry our of your mind and onto a piece of paper, symbolic of not having to carry worry with you. Journaling also helps you see which things you can do something about and which things you cannot. When you journal with your non-dominant hand, chances are you will contact the feelings of your inner child and learn about what may be old feelings and concerns rather than current ones.
- Stay in the present moment. Much of our lives are spent in the past or future. Stop for 5 or 10 minutes whenever you feel the monkeys begin to take over your mind. If you are at work, stop what you are doing and remain at your desk and/or excuse yourself to the bathroom. Ask your worrisome thoughts to take a break. You will be amazed how your mind listens to you when asked! Notice how your body feels. Is it achy, sore, or feel reasonably good? What emotions do you feel and where in your body do you feel them? Breathe. Bring your awareness to what is in front of you; focus on the color of your desk, a pencil, photos, a vase of flowers, the ceiling, the floor. Notice as much detail as possible. Breathe. What sounds do you hear? Breathe. Recognize that all you have is this moment.
- Pray. Prayer does not have to be religious. We live in a universe of energetic connection to each other, to creatures, and the planet herself. Make your prayer a practice of gratitude and listening. When you are grateful for what you have, there is less time to have concerns about what you don’t have. Let your heart lead and ask only for the good of the whole.
Pick one or two of these practices and do them regularly. Every so often try adding another mind-quieting practice. Trust that the world has a lot more generosity, kindness, compassion, love, wisdom, abundance, and good outcomes than media would have you believe. Let the monkeys play where monkeys belong…in the rain forest!
Heart Seeds© 2020 by Robin Reichert
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