If you find yourself frantic a lot these days, this will help. It’s not your external reality that causes franticness but what we call your MindStory about it. When we practice choosing the stories we tell ourselves, we can find new freedom to face uncertainty with power and purpose.
03:00 – An example of what can happen when you unplug
11:05 – How to change from a bad MindStory to a good one
18:45 – Taking moments in your day to wake up from the spell
28:55 – Having tea with the gremlin that likes to keep you frantic
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This is episode 92 – Freedom from the Frantic Mind. If you find yourself frantic a lot these day, this will help. It’s not your external reality that causes franticness but what would call your mindstory about it – your interpretation. When we practice choosing the stories we tell ourselves, we can find new freedom to face uncertainty with power and purpose. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast.
What is behind this state of franticness many of us can get caught up in? I think the driver is to escape unresolved issues looping in the background. It’s a form of distraction, a numbing out. Many of us have unresolved disharmony about choices we’ve made or continue to make that go against our values in subtle and maybe not so subtle ways. Some hear voices of condemnation in their head, being not enough in some way…all the ways society teaches us we need to achieve in terms of looks, finances, career success, family life, ways of being. Just not perfect enough. There’s always something we can nit pick with ourselves. We are trying to drown that out.
Our devices, the internet, our work, our list of tasks, our substances all work sometimes to numb out, drown out the noise. But it’s not a full time fix. The moment there is silence, it all comes rushing back in…the disharmony, the pain, the agitation, the feeling that something is not right…but there’s also that feeling of confusion about how to transform that. Usually the way to transform is to go through…face it head on…be willing to see the truth…be curious about what’s really going on. Maybe all the dragons we try to slay or run from are actually voices within that need to be heard, and once they are heard they transform into something wonderful, a powerful creative force for positive change.
Case in point. I went for a holiday once to a remote Indonesian island. The only way there was on a very rough boat trip that lasted for four hours. The only way around the island was on foot or on donkey cart. There was one place on the whole island where you might be able to get some internet or a cell connection on a good day when the wind was just right or the Gods were in a good mood. At first I thought, great! What a good excuse to unplug. After a couple of days, however, I started hungering for checking texts and emails, for some good distraction. I took the long walk around the island to the Internet café. There was a big, longline up. I didn’t want to wait. By day three of no Internet I had the same feeling I’ve had when I’ve done fasting, start to get a headache, cravings. I started to wonder if the Internet, and our devices be creating some sort of addictive chemical in our veins, that when we don’t have it, sends us into a tizzy? I realized at that time, that I hadn’t gone very long without my devices in quite a long time, it became clear this was an issue.
I started to get very irritable. But like any craving, I went right into the heart of it, processed all the hungry, negativity, irritability until I came out the other sides and then found I was fine without all that distraction, in fact happier, more peaceful. The trick is that you can’t get there right away, you have to cross through the swamp to get there.
Of course, soon after that my trip was over and I was back in the land of connection and all sorts of pinging sounds went on in my phone and laptop. And I was back in it again. But since then, I actually take large chunks of the day without being online at all, just to get used to not needing it. Because, goodness knows, maybe there will come a time when the whole grid goes down and nobody has any devices. What would we all do then, those of us who spend hours of day with our eyes glued to glowing screens?
A college teacher friend said that she asked her students to not bring their phones into class. They had to leave them outside the room in a locked box. They went nuts. You could see them fidgeting, not knowing where to look, not knowing how to operate in a world without a device in their face. I think we need to start getting used to a life where we might not have devices all the time. It might be uncomfortable at first. It might be a tredge through a swamp, or a sweat out, like a heroin addict or a caffein addict goes through when their body doesn’t get the substance it’s become dependent on.
But if you can do it, your are no longer owned by the substance or device. You own it. And I think it can be a lynchpin in breaking free of franticness, and this constant multitasking, split focus of our minds, racing between windows and apps and notifications and updates. Even if you just did a few hours a day in the land of non franticness – which maybe you do, which is great…because the more of us who can, the better. It’s a great training of the mind to find silence. There is great joy, and freedom and deep creativity to be found in the silence. In the silence, in the presence, is a different awareness, and expanded understanding of what’s possible in your life, what’s true and what’s not true, where nobody or nothing is influencing your thinking. It’s your true thinking, the true you giving you a kind of download of multisensory awareness that will let you operate in the kind of world that’s coming.
When you practice staying present, one thing you’ll quickly discover is the different Mind Stories that run in the background. Some are useful and practical in your life and some are not. It’s just like going through the applications on your computer and finding old programs you don’t use, malware, duplicates. You can delete and just keep the ones that are helpful. Like a simple MindStory is you as a driver of a car. There is a movie that plays in your head when you go to drive the car with you as the Protangonist. You have your script memorized, you know your actions, you know your intention perhaps as a driver…to drive safely and to enjoy the ride. We have these packages of data literally everything we have experienced in life, and not just physical activities like driving, but in how you view life, or what it means when you fail or success at a high stakes project, or how to behave towards others in challenging situations. Maybe you like how you behave regarding your work, for the most part it feels good, right and you’re in alignment with your core values, then you have a good Mindstory. Maybe you don’t like how you behave regarding a certain aspect of your work like prioritizing your time. Often it feels bad, wrong and you’re out of alignment with your core values, you’re getting frantic a lot, things are dropping through the cracks, it’s making you bark at people you love, then you know you have a bad Mindstory that needs re-writing. Only you can know that, but once you’re aware of it and make an intention to change it, life will bring you an opportunity to re-write the MindStory.
For example, I used to be a person who was late most of the time. I’d have an appointment at 2 pm and I’d know it would take about 15 minutes to drive there. At quarter to, I would think…I gotta go! But then I’d remember I need to get my coat, find my shoes, fill up my water bottle, locate the car keys, get my bag with the papers I need, look up the address on my phone…and all of that would take 15 minutes. Then, I’d drive there and not be able to find parking for a while and I’d be 25 minutes late. And the person I was meeting would often be annoyed. I’d spend most of the drive there panicked and cursing at traffic. That was a bad mindstory I had about how to get to appointment. As the Protagonist I had the role of “late person”, so I fulfilled on that role and intention well.
Then I made the intention to change, I wanted the role of “on time” person. That intention alone made me start reading articles on how to be on time, and talking to people who are usually on time. Then naturally my behaviour started to change. I’d have an appointment at 2 pm and I’d know it would take about 15 minutes to drive there. An hour before, I would get everything ready, so that at 1:30 pm I’d leisurely do all the last minute things. Then, I’d leave at 1:35, arrive by 1:50, park, pay for parking, walk to the location and walk in right on time. And the person I was meeting would not be annoyed. I’d spend most of the drive there realxed and fine with traffic. That was a good mindstory I had about how to get to appointment. That’s because I as the Protagonist had the role of “on time person”, so I fulfilled on that role and intention well. So, that’s just an example of the mechanics. It’s a bit more complicated than that in some cases, but it all starts with intention. For more detail on this check out my book MindStory Inner Coach and the try the 2 neuro-blueprint audios for a sense of the mechanics of changing MindStories. Just go to MindStoryAcademy.com and you’ll see how to get it right there on the home page.
Habitual Mind Stories are like seeds in the unconscious. When the right causes and conditions come together, these preexisting MindStories pop up like flowers in the springtime. It’s helpful to contemplate that it’s these propensities and not what triggers them that are the real cause of our joy or suffering.
I wanted to sit down and focus on this podcast. I wanted to look up a reference I had on an app that lets you store different kinds of notes. But then it told me I needed to upgrade in order to use this particular device with that app. But I thought I’d already upgraded. It said in my account I’d upgraded and paid for it, but it was still operating as the basic. When I tried to contact the makers of the app, I was sent to a knowledge base. I went through all the frequently asked questions and one suggestion was to reinstall the app, which I did, and it took a long time. And it still said I wasn’t upgraded. So then I paid again, and it still said I wasn’t upgraded, and I still couldn’t find any place to leave a support ticket. That’s when I noticed my jaw tight, my stomach in a knot, and feeling this annoyance, because a whole hour had passed and I hadn’t been able to get going my project, and I still hadn’t solved the issue. At that point I realized I was writing about Franticness and life just gave me a perfect example of how it tends to happen. I then realized, do I really need what is in this app? No, not really. As soon as I let go of trying to get it working, I magically remembered the reference and got to work on this podcast. It’s like sometimes we think we need technology, when we don’t. And, later on when I checked, the app was working fine and upgraded. It just magically switched on, probably when I agreed to learn my lesson about franticness.
It isn’t what’s on the screens of our lives, our external situations, it’s the projector. It isn’t the current external reality that’s the root of our issues; it’s our subconscious stories running the show. The mindstories that say we should be different, to sorry for ourselves, to be envious of someone else’s good fortune, to get frustrated—our habitual, all-too-familiar emotional responses are in response to the well worn records telling the story, the mind story, that we are familiar with. It’ like seeds that we just keep watering and nurturing. But every time we pause and stay present with the underlying energy, we can wake up from that, and stop reinforcing these propensities and begin to open ourselves to refreshingly new possibilities.
The way out usually involves just stopping watering the seed. Just letting it go. Remember going on hiking trip of the West coast trail on Vancouver Island in Canada. It was an eight day trip of hiking with a backpack up and down hills for seven hours a day. Although I’d trained before doing it, the first two days were hellish. I had 70 pounds on my poor little bony shoulders. At one point, I took everything out of my pack and just let a lot of it go. Things I thought I needed, I didn’t really need. Felt so great to traveling so much lighter. I use that as a metaphorical reference whenever I’m holding onto a mind story, an interpretation that’s driving negative emotions, keeping me in a beta wave mind state, you know, those stress brain states, where if you could look at a graph of your brain waves they would be very jagged instead of nice and smooth like a theta wave, the kind of brain waves you get when you are feeling peaceful, meditative, non-agitated, where you can access higher creativity and insights into life. So, what do you let go of? What ideas about yourself, about life, about what you feel you have to do with your time. Do you really need to do those seven things at the same time, do these projects really have to be done by that particular deadline? What if you just let it all go? What if you just let one thing go? With the world fall apart? Probably not. Life might actually get better.
As you respond differently to an old habit, you may start to notice changes. In the past when you got agitated or angry, it might have taken you three days to cool down, but if you keep interrupting those thoughts, you may get to the point at which it takes only a day to drop the anger. Eventually, only hours or even one and a half minutes. You’re starting to be liberated from habitual stories that drive destructive emotions.
It’s important to realize that interrupting thoughts isn’t the same as repressing them. Repression is denial of what’s happening, which only sends the thoughts underground where they can fester. At the same time, we don’t want to keep chasing after the thoughts and getting hooked by them. Interrupting thoughts is somewhere between clinging to them and pushing them away. It’s a way of allowing the thoughts to come and go, to arise and pass, to not be such a big deal. There I go, being agitated again, isn’t that interesting. Taking a deep breath looking behind the feeling at what’s driving it. Is that really true? Not really. That usually makes me smile, if you get to the place we can smile and even laugh at the funny way that your mind works, you’ve really entered hallowed ground, I believe, where you really start to have new agency when it comes to the stories you run in your mind.
The practice is to train in not following the thoughts, just let them go. Find some silence. Go back to that place of zero point, like the Placid Lake from which all of existence arises, let it all go back to nothingness. If it comes back it’s yours, is necessary. If it doesn’t, it never was. The trick is to not make the frantic thoughts the villain. You can just train in interrupting their momentum. It’s like training pet, be gentle but firm, repeat as necessary. If you notice yourself getting worked up about something, stop, take a breath, get curious like a detective, what thought is driving that feeling? Once you locate the thought, I should have gotten more work done, my son should’ve done his housework today, politicians should be behaving differently. The basic instruction is to 1). try labelling it “thinking”. Or 2) try saying – so what? So what that I didn’t get more work done, so what that my son didn’t do to his housework, so what that politician behaved the way he did? And then you might get another thought, which might be the actual driving thought that’s causing the agitation. So then again you could just try letting THAT thought go, or label it thinking, or just “look at all these thoughts I have about how I should be different, or others should be different or the world should be different. Just have a little laugh about it. Because when you can get there, you can open up higher brain capacity which can either let you peacefully accept what’s going on, or have an ingenious solution for transforming it. If you approach issues from a triggered state, you tend to have bad ideas about how to approach it.
Because the habit is to pursue the MindStory, the plot you’re used to, the character you are used to playing, and the script you have memorized. But just remember, you are the story creator and the storyteller, so if you don’t like the story, you can change it. We just forgot that we can change it. The old Mindstory is associated with certainty and comfort. It bolsters a limited, static but familiar sense of self and holds out the promise of safety and happiness. But the promise is a false one; any happiness it brings is only temporary. The more you practice not escaping into the fantasy world of your unconscious mindstories and instead contacting the felt sense of groundlessness in the here and now, the more accustomed you’ll come to choosing the mindstories, roles, scripts, thoughts and emotions you want, or to be free of them altogether, just placid neutrality where necessary. It’s about freeing yourself of unconscious, fixed stories that run your life, and perhaps lead to results you don’t want.
Still, the tendency to scramble for the security of the frantic mind, will try to reassert itself and gain some ground. We can’t underestimate the very real (and very fleeting) comfort it provides. The meditation teacher Tara Brach, in her book Radical Acceptance, describes a practice she uses at such times. It’s based on the Buddha’s encounters with his nemesis, Mara, a demon who kept appearing to tempt the Buddha to give up his spiritual resolve and go back to his old unaware ways.
Psychologically, Mara represents the false promise of happiness and security offered by our habitual responses. So whenever Mara appeared, often with beautiful women or other temptations in tow, the Buddha would say, “I see you, Mara. I know you’re a trickster. I know what you’re trying to do.” And then he’d invite his nemesis to sit down for tea. When we’re tempted to go back to our habitual ways of avoiding groundedness, you can look temptation in the eye and say, “I see you, Mara, let’s have tea”, and you sit down with that old story without any judgment of right or wrong. That acceptance and awareness is the engine of transforming it all. .
I think most of us are in the process of awakening. It can be helpful to think of yourself in this way. I’m in the process of becoming, in the process of evolving. I’m neither doomed nor completely free, but I’m creating my future with every word, every action, every thought. I find myself in a very dynamic situation with unimaginable potential. To state the intention to yourself, to life that you want to awaken and evolve is very powerful. You get into a dance with life, whereby you know you have all the support you need to simply relax and go with what life brings, just processing life as it comes, choosing to engage in the process of awakening.
What can really help this is to accept a fundamental ambiguity of life. Although you may not think of yourself as fixed and unchanging, it is human nature to be very emotionally invested in things staying the same. There’s a default negative reaction to feeling groundless, like when the roller coaster starts hurtling down the track. But you don’t have to contract against that groundlessness, you can throw your hands in the air and start to laugh. Both those responses are available in human story. One of them leads to throwing up, and the other one leads to joy. So we don’t have to close down when we feel groundlessness in any form. Instead, we can turn toward it and say, “This is what freedom from a fixed mind feels like. This is what freedom from closed-heartedness feels like. This is what unbiased, unfettered goodness feels like. Maybe I’ll get curious and see if I can go beyond my resistance and experience the goodness.”
Because the true nature of the mind is as vast as the sky. The roles, scripts, stories, thoughts and emotions are like clouds that, from our vantage point, obscure it. Sometimes those our beautiful fluffy white clouds we enjoy to look at, sometimes they cover the sun with slate gray and feel ominous and dreary, or stormy and rough. The irony is that to experience the boundlessness of the sky, we’ll need to get curious about those clouds. When we look deeply into the clouds, they fall apart, and there’s the expanse of sky. It never went anywhere. It has always been here, momentarily hidden from us by the fleeting, shifting clouds.
Letting go of our cloud-like stories, thoughts and emotions is by no means habitual at first. They’re like old friends who have accompanied us for as long as we can remember, and we’re very resistant to saying good-bye. But each time you begin to let go, you gain agency over your life in a way you never had before. Perhaps you can be right here in this moment of silence for only five seconds today, and then tomorrow it’s 6 seconds, and in a year it’s a whole afternoon. The Nondistracted mind is like a muscle you can build, and maintain any time, any moment you want. Take a breath and just be there…now, here in this moment and no where else.
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