Does Your Mind Have a Mind of its Own?

Mindfulness, Part 1: Becoming Aware

For me, it started with prayer. Prayer has always been a challenge for me. A challenge to spend time with God, focusing on Him entirely. Maybe amazing saints pray for three hours a day on their knees in the snow.

But not me. Five minutes into my devotional thoughts, I’m planning dinner or worrying about paying the bills.

Thankfully, I’m becoming more aware of how my mind behaves. It seldom stays present. The moment in which my body sits finds my mind racing ahead to the future. Or wandering off to the past.

 This morning I tried to savor my coffee, really taste that first delicious sip. Just focus on one thing, I told myself, notice what is here and now:
dark-haired woman sips coffee with eyes closed
Ah, yes, the heat on my lips on this cold winter day. Now that toasty Italian roast flavor mixes with the sugar and cream and… 

Three minutes later, I’ve planned half the day and become mired in angst about how little I got done yesterday. On top of that, I heap recriminations on my brain for its inability to stay focused.

Do you mind?

  • Have you ever driven your car for miles but forgotten the entire journey due to an inward conversation?
  • Have you ever started to work at your desk and then “come-to” half an hour later, your mind a thousand miles away?
  • Have you ever had an entire argument with someone within the narrows of your own headspace?

In this series of articles on Mindfulness, I will explore the basics of becoming more conscious. Also, I will share resources for diving a little deeper. Whether dipping your toe in the water or renewing your practice, you can follow me on this path to gaining more awareness and to finding a bit more peace.

Fear Not: The Tool of Meditation

Meditation is a bad word in some circles. I absorbed the notion that we open ourselves up to nefarious influences when we meditate. But this practice is not about emptying the mind. Rather it is about learning to observe how full of ideas our heads really are.

It’s like leaving your front-row seat in the movie theatre to watch the show from the wall at the back. You see the drama and the audience at the same time. In other words, you become aware that there’s a show going on rather than being caught up in it.

Let’s face it, these minds of ours can take us places we need not go. Our thought patterns carve deep ruts into which fear seeps, flooding our bodies with stress and tension. Awareness of our mental gymnastics can create space for disengaging with all of the places our worries try to take us. Eventually, we gain our footing and can stay longer in the present moment.

Practice Make Progress

We can practice becoming more mindful. Here’s a sample meditation. Set aside 10 minutes and find a comfortable spot.

  1. Sit with closed eyes
  2. Focus on your breathing and notice what it feels like, in your nose or in your chest
  3. When your mind drifts to thinking, smile and focus again on your breathing
  4. When you notice your mind has drifted again, smile and return to your breath
  5. Engage in this practice every day for a week

What’s key to practicing mindfulness is remembering that your goal is not to stay focused on your breath for a solid ten minutes. To some extent, you measure your progress by how often you notice your drifting into thought. Success is returning and returning again to the breath.

Be Kind

Meditation and Mindfulness have been my go-to tools lately. As I practice becoming aware of how my mind works, I pick up on the messages my inner voice whispers:

“If you make the wrong decision, it’ll be a disaster!”

“Nothing’s ever going to change, things’ll only get worse.”

Have you ever noticed how mean you can be to yourself? You wouldn’t say things like, “You are such an idiot!” to a friend, would you?

For me, learning to focus and notice what I’m thinking is a Godsend. This awareness lets me decide to follow a train of thought or jump off that thing before it wrecks me.

I hope you’ll give it a try. Leave a comment below and let me know how it’s going.

Thanks for joining me in Part 1 of my series on Mindfulness. Sign up for my newsletter to stay tuned for the rest of the series.

15 thoughts on “Does Your Mind Have a Mind of its Own?”

  1. I plan to revisit this comment, but I’m so glad you are doing a deep dive here. Yes, I’m cautious about the whole meditation thing, but meditating on breathing, God’s blessings, God’s Word…these are good. (Psalm 119) I struggle with sleep and my constant battle with what I call no-no thoughts – those destructive memories and dramas that would have me constantly lose sleep. I’ve even been known to try to re-write the scene in my mind so I can learn how to handle things better. Yikes! So much growing for me to do! But also so much mindful peace for me to seek and absorb. Thanks for taking the lead on this and giving me the tug I need to trust.

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    • Thanks for weighing in. Yes, the sleep struggles with thoughts can be tough. I am learning to tell myself I can visit with them when I am well-rested but tired is not the time!

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      • Last night was a quasi-breakthrough. I actually sat mostly still in one place with my eyes closed most of the time for 10 minutes. Trying to trap my thoughts is like trying to herd kittens! …but I will press on. Ha!

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      • I’m practicing postponing thoughts…kind of a stick a pin in it…and that is helping. “Watch them run through” is a funny thought and sometimes it works. This morning I was less stilted about intrusions and watched to see if they would run through. Sometimes they did which surprised me.

        Does everything have to be silent for the meditation rest? Phil Keaggy’s “Let Everything Else Go” and your “Love Like Breathing” seem to want to play in my mind’s background to slow anxiety. Ha!

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  2. I adhere to the choice of three tasks each day. Today’s are work on taxes, go shopping, and complete a poem about the process.

    Coffee and esprit
    Focus on the daily three
    Mindful prophesy

    One down, two to go!

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  3. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. (Ps. 42:5 NKJ)

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  4. I can identify with all of the above distractions and side trips! I used to be troubled at how my mental meanderings fed my procrastinating tendencies.
    In later years after I took on the role of pastor I used those mental trips creatively to explore my reactions to scripture and doctrine. Often times in mid-thought the Spirit quietly stepped in like a friend watching over my shoulder. It was like a free-form chess game where He would say, “Yes, that’s an interesting thought. Why don’t you go here with it,” and quickly a stream of thought would take shape that harmonized with a scripture that came to mind and – Voila! The message was clear.
    I wish I could take credit for harnessing the creative power but I know it was beyond me! Like someone from my younger days would say, “Don’t push the river; it flows by itself.”

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  5. Christine,
    Thank you, once again, for being willing to “go there,” with issues that are “common to man,” but so often avoided, or ignored, by those slogging our way into the Kingdom.😊

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  6. I love the idea that it’s like standing at the end of the auditorium and watching not only the drama but the audience. Had never thought about it that way. I’ve been working on this practice on and off for a while. Definitely tough for those of us with “squirrel brain”.

    Reply

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